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House of Commons Hansard #109 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was employees.

Topics

Public Service Modernization ActGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

Public Service Modernization ActGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Bloc

Robert Lanctôt Bloc Châteauguay, QC

Mr. Speaker, since early this morning, I have been working on the substance of the bill. Now that the hon. member for Mississauga South has spoken, I want to take this opportunity to mention that, several times, he was wise enough to support—as did I—certain events during the appearance of some witnesses.

However, a 282-page bill is being shoved down our throats, completely amending two acts and making consequential amendments to other acts. During clause by clause consideration in committee, we looked at the opposition's amendments and some of the government's amendments. But it must be said that entire acts were changed and the committee was unable to debate tor obtain the necessary explanations from witnesses, be it the minister, the deputy minister or the parliamentary secretary, about many of the amendments made.

At the time—and I had the support of the member for Mississauga South—we asked for explanations. In our opinion, something incredible happened; I would even say that this might create a precedent. The committee was not able to consider all the clauses and all the amendments in this 282-page bill.

The problem is as follows. There was an amendment, and the House asked that this bill be considered, even if the form is not only unusual but dangerous. This bill is a compilation of various acts, and we were not even able to consider the substance of changes to all these acts. The changes and amendments proposed by the opposition were considered, but not all the changes to the legislation were considered.

This is an extremely important point. I know that my hon. colleague on the government side agreed with me that this bill should have been split. It should have been considered properly. But there was a refusal to look at the real amendments in each of the bills.

Mr. Speaker, you are indicating that you are not granting me enough time to ask a question. I believe I have 10 minutes.

Public Service Modernization ActGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

In fact, 10 minutes are allocated for questions and comments. However, the hon. member who has just completed his speech must be given some time to reply to your questions and comments. At this point, you have taken 3 minutes and 40 seconds.

Public Service Modernization ActGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Bloc

Robert Lanctôt Bloc Châteauguay, QC

Mr. Speaker, we are given 10 minutes for what is called comments. I can take the whole 10 minutes to make comments.

Public Service Modernization ActGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

Not necessarily, it is a question of cooperation, because the member who made the speech—

Public Service Modernization ActGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Bloc

Robert Lanctôt Bloc Châteauguay, QC

See, not necessarily, Mr. Speaker, but it could be done. I will take the two minutes left and he can have the other five minutes. Because it is very important.

Public Service Modernization ActGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

I am sorry, but I do not think so. If there is some time left after the hon. member for Mississauga South has replied, I will recognize you again.

The hon. member for Mississauga South.

Public Service Modernization ActGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member uses a couple of words that I think probably capsulize one of my key points when he says that the form of the bill is a dangerous form. I do not believe this type of approach to important legislation should ever be used, because it undermines the comfort level, the confidence level that parliamentarians can have when they are overwhelmed by three, four and five bills being dealt with at the same time, even though they may have some overlap.

We have inquired about this. It has happened before in a smaller case, but to have such a substantive piece of legislation come forward like this, I can only presume it is on the recommendation of the experts and the Privy Council. However, we are talking about the rights, the privileges and the duties of parliamentarians and I think we have to be very careful not to establish a precedent, by using this kind of dangerous form of bill, of having it become the norm.

I do not know how long I will be here as a member of Parliament, and I would like to be here longer, but while I am here I want at least the opportunity to fight the battles. I do not want to be here and not have had the opportunity at least to engage in debate and at least to fight for what I believe in. I do not want to be pre-empted. I have been pre-empted by a motion to put the question. I have been pre-empted by a bill that has a form which I do not believe is helpful to Parliament. Notwithstanding that I agree with many parts or most of the bill, I am not sure whether I have seen or appreciated all of the nuances of the changes being proposed, just simply because I did not have the opportunity to question the witnesses as fully as I would have liked and I did not have the opportunity to listen to other members of the committee question the witnesses as much as they should have. I needed time, and time was taken away simply by the form of the bill.

Public Service Modernization ActGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—St. Clair, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to take my colleague from the Liberals back to the issue of the oath. I look at the composition of Canada now and I must admit I am having some difficulty, if I understand him, with his position that the oath should be comprised of swearing allegiance both to God, and I assume he is referring to a Christian God, and to the Queen of England and of Canada, when we have so many in our population who do not have those types of relations with either the Queen, in terms of historical association, or Christianity.

I think of my experience in the courtroom, where we have over the last several decades become much more flexible on administering the oath for witnesses in that setting. We always have at least the Christian Bible, the Torah, the Koran and other religious documents on which people can swear an oath in the religion with which they are affiliated. In addition to that, we have an oath or an affirmation that can be made for those people who do not believe in a god at all.

I am asking my colleague, if we had a flexible oath would he be comfortable with that?

Public Service Modernization ActGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I think the member has made the case as to why there should be a debate in this place on the relevance and importance of the monarchy and of God or other deities in this place.

The oath of allegiance provides a practical context to carrying out one's duties. It reminds the office holder that the authority of his or her office derives from the Queen. The oath of office covers how the incumbent should carry out his or her duties. It makes no claim on their commitment to a social order of which they are about to become a governing part. The oath of allegiance is therefore intended to remind us of how the Crown is the linchpin in holding us together in its public manifestations.

The member is saying to me that if we do not have 100% consensus in the country, we must eliminate the value that we have. We have in our national anthem “God keep our land, glorious and free”. Let us take “God” out of the national anthem. Why not? That is what the member is arguing.

Policy by its very nature is discriminatory, but not in a negative context. We can discriminate affirmatively to show what we value. What is this country about? That is the issue and that is why we should have this debate. Sixty-three per cent of Canadians said that they wanted to retain the monarchy. We cannot ignore that. I do not believe we should eliminate everything in which there is not 100% consensus. If we do that, if we go down that treacherous road, we will have to get down to the lowest common denominator between all Canadians, and the best I can determine, that lowest common denominator is a single human cell.

Public Service Modernization ActGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

Before resuming debate, I want to draw the attention of the hon. member for Châteauguay and quote, for his information and satisfaction, an excerpt from page 506 of the House of Commons Procedure and Practice , also called the Marleau-Montpetit:

During the 10-minutes period for questions and comments following most speeches, Members may direct questions to the Member who has just completed his or her speech, or may make brief comments on that speech.

To make things clear—

Public Service Modernization ActGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

Bloc

Robert Lanctôt Bloc Châteauguay, QC

We have to be brief.

Public Service Modernization ActGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

Members have to be brief, and we will not start arguing about what brief means.

The hon. member for Mercier.

Public Service Modernization ActGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

Bloc

Francine Lalonde Bloc Mercier, QC

Mr. Speaker, I must tell you that it is a pleasure to speak in the debate on this bill. I should qualify this immediately by saying that it is an extremely mixed pleasure.

For someone who was involved with the labour movement as long as I was, it is sad to see that this supposedly comprehensive review of the public service, which has an important role to play in delivering services to the public everywhere in Quebec and Canada, was not seen as an opportunity to bring people closer together and find new ways of working better together by avoiding unnecessary conflict and building on the experience, qualifications, goodwill and knowledge base of the labour movement or workers, as the case may be.

I have not had the chance to examine this bill as much as I would have liked to. I congratulate my colleague, the hon. member for Châteauguay, who sits on the committee. I take this opportunity to say that he has done a thorough job and provided us with notes that I have read carefully. I have also looked at certain parts of the bill.

On that basis, I regret to say that the government and the minister seem to have missed a great opportunity. Let us review the highlights of this odd bill. This is a bill dealing with the Public Service Employment Act as it concerns the definition of employment and so on, and at the same time a number of provisions that should normally be part of the Canada Labour Code.

I know that, in committee, opposition members and some members from the party across the way would have wanted to use this bill to replace the special legislation, the separate code applicable to public service employees by having these employees come under the Canada Labour Code. So, the bill deals with the public service legislation, with the Canada Labour Code and also with a series of provisions that are not included but could be, to deal with harassment, and psychological harassment in particular.

If I were to qualify the bill before us—and my hon. colleague will certainly have something to add in this respect—I would say that its primary purpose is the renewal of the commission, which plays an extremely important role, one which must transcend all political parties and must not be influenced by partisanship or any provision to be submitted to the government, any government.

In fact, there are many loopholes in the powers conferred to the commission and in its obligations with regard to employment. This means that if we want to put the commission above partisanship, since it can delegate its powers and we do not have the same assurances for those to whom the powers are delegated, there could be a problem with staffing, which the government also proposes to modernize, because the concept of merit is being given a new meaning.

When I read all the provisions dealing with merit, I thought that the whole thing made no sense. Provisions should not tmake it relatively certain that the people hired are indeed hired on the basis of merit. On the contrary, many questions arise as to the possibility that all kinds of other considerations will play a role in determining whether a person will be hired or not. I am sorry, but that will give merit an even lesser role in the process.

I must say those involved in the union movement—and also all those sensible people outside the union movement—have always been extremely skeptical about this notion of appointment on the basis of merit. Some people are very enthusiastic and will say that, yes, merit is good. The problem is how is merit defined. Who defines merit? How can it be ascertained that a person was appointed on the basis of merit?

These are difficult questions. I must read a few provisions contained in this bill. Reading them is always better than commenting them. They speak for themselves. First, concerning intent, the bill says that appointments:

—by the Commission shall be made on the basis of merit and must be free from political influence.

However, I have said that the commission can delegate these mandates. But what are the conditions set by the bill to determine that an appointment was made on the basis of merit? It says:

(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 are therefore talking about the basic qualifications.

(b) The Commission has regard to (i) any additional qualifications that the deputy head may consider to be an asset for the work to be performed, or for the organization, currently or in the future,

Note the words “for the organization”, which could mean for the administrators. It is not a very precise term.

I will digress for a moment to read what the Auditor General's report says on classification and evaluation. She must be pulling out her hair when she reads the bill. If they have not succeeded in defining a universal classification system in 12 years—they abandoned it after spending a lot of money on the project—how do you think that they will be able to come up with a classification system in which two employees could be clearly qualified and classified in this way? I do not understand.

Second, there are all the other qualifications that could be good. Speaking Spanish for example could also be an asset. The bill also deals with:

any current or future operational requirements of the organization that may be identified by the deputy head,

How do people know when they are hiring someone that this will meet current or future operational requirements?

(iii) any current or future needs of the organization that may be identified by the deputy head.

The commission has to take that into account. But paragraph 4 is the nail in the coffin of a procedure which is already quite flawed:

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

What does this mean? It means that under this procedure, even if the clause starts by saying “Appointments are made on the basis of merit”, the conditions set to be able to say they are based on merit fly in the face of that idea. It is a shame, because not only will that discredit the merit principle, but it will make it even more difficult to match qualifications, since, even if the essential requirements are the same, the elements that may be taken into account will vary, and the job description might have to be modified.

As we know, 30% of job reclassifications to a higher level was done that way under a system which can only be described as an elephant. That does not mean it is not nice and gentle, but that it is difficult to handle. On this point, I will stop here.

Is it possible to lodge a complaint? Yes it is, but only one person has that power. If it is possible to pick only one single person, how can those who believe they have been wronged complain? It is complicated.

There is a problem with the merit system.This bill should adequately protect people who blow the whistle regarding procedures or decisions that are illegal, look like corruption or do not belong in the public service. Whistleblowers should be protected by the bill before us today. It is not a 20-year old bill, but a modern-day reform.

However, with the way that the government protects those who themselves want to protect the public by reporting abuse in the workplace, public servants may very well not support whistleblowing, because they might not be protected. I will not go into the details. I could also read some documents on this, but this is a great cause for concern.

The bill also reviews the provisions on the code. I repeat, in committee, I do not know how many attended, but they tried to ensure that public servants would be subject to the Canada Labour Code. This is a long-standing demand, which is obvious. It is all the more obvious because we know that, in modern labour relations, we try to negotiate, to come to an agreement, to see the needs of both parties to avoid confrontation.

Whether in the private or the public sector, confrontation is always a loss, not only of productivity and services, but also a loss in the ability of management and employees to work better together. This translates into a major loss of productivity, not only a temporary one—which happens at the time of a conflict—but a permanent one. This happens when daily labour relations are not managed to ensure that they are respectful. And respect goes both ways.

When I read about how essential services are to be determined, that, too, made my hair stand on end. I shall read from the bill:

The employer has the exclusive right to determine the level at which an essential service is to be provided to the public, or a segment of the public—

The employer has the exclusive right to determine that. That means the employer can say the level is 100%. Some provisions might even suggest it could be 125%. I continue:

—at any time, including the extent to which and the frequency with which the service is to be provided. Nothing in this Division is to be construed as limiting that right.

That is what is called an absolute right. When we look at how the Conseil des services essentiels in Quebec operates, we may sometimes think it takes a little time.

But, in general, it gives all parties the feeling that it is fair and equitable, that service to the public is being preserved, while the right of workers to apply pressure to get a settlement is also respected. I remind the House that all attempts to remove the right to strike, in this or any other country, have always ended in failure, because no worker can be forced to work; that would be slavery.

This provision makes it extremely difficult, in my opinion—and I can hardly wait to see it in action, because this will be a first, I believe—to reach agreements during bargaining. My experience tells me that, instead of helping the bargaining process, this will make it more difficult. The discussion, then, is between the union and its agent and the employer and its agent, to determine which and how many people will deliver the service, but with no discussion at all about the level of service. Thus, I do not see where this is leading, except to much bigger problems.

This legislation does not include serious provisions to address the recommendations made in a series of reports and studies on what is called co-determination, or seeking common ground.

Instead of implementing mechanisms—as my colleague from Châteauguay proposed—in a number of provisions such as those relating to pensions, for instance, both parties could seek common ground. There are many other provisions under which we can implement mechanisms for seeking modern ways to work together during collective bargaining or during the term of a contract, especially for employees or administrators in a public service that has a responsibility to all Canadians.

Before I run out of time, I would like to say that it is odd that this legislation—this is what I found amusing—is called An Act to modernize employment—we saw this with merit—and labour relations—we saw that it is the government that defines the level of essential services.

As for the other provisions related to harassment, especially psychological harassment, there is almost nothing in this bill. In terms of the French language, Dyane Adam told the committee that in British Columbia only 5% of positions require bilingualism. That means that 95% of unilingual anglophones can be hired as public servants while in Quebec, 50% of positions are bilingual. In other words, it is much easier for a unilingual anglophone to be hired in the public service than for a unilingual francophone in Quebec.

The committee members wanted us to reintroduce into the legislation provisions from the Official Languages Act. Unfortunately, this was defeated. If we were to grade this legislation we would give it an “E”.

Public Service Modernization ActGovernment Orders

5:40 p.m.

Bloc

Jean-Yves Roy Bloc Matapédia—Matane, QC

Mr. Speaker, I wish to begin by congratulating my colleague from Mercier for giving such an excellent speech. She was well placed to do so, given her abilities and her background.

My questions relating to the bill are, like hers, concerned with the merit principle and the issue of whistle-blowing. The matter of merit struck me—I realize we need to be brief and I shall try to do this quickly—as extremely dangerous, and I see a link with the whistle-blowing aspect. I would like to know whether my colleague agrees with me and whether my interpretation is correct.

Let us imagine a person who reports a behaviour, an attitude or an action in his or her sector of the public service. If he or she aspires to a higher position at some later date, I think there will be problems. This is where merit enters in. How is the concept of merit determined? How will it be applied?

It must be kept in mind that the federal public service was created during the second world war and still has a near-military management mentality. This makes things extremely difficult. My riding contains a very large Government of Canada office. I regularly receive complaints from public servants who work there, because of the management system, and in particular the abuse of part-time workers. They get called in for four hours and then sent home, or called in on a weekend and then sent home. This makes things very difficult, particularly for people with families.

When there is talk of modernizing the public service, would it not have been necessary to include measures relating to the family?

Public Service Modernization ActGovernment Orders

5:40 p.m.

Bloc

Francine Lalonde Bloc Mercier, QC

Mr. Speaker, this is a provision that would indeed have been very interesting. However, I must tell my colleague that the bill has nothing at all of the sort to offer. Instead of having a modern bill, we have instead something that is more authoritarian than anything else. This is an authoritarian vision that borders on encouraging conflict. That is what is sad. It is hard to understand.

It is all the harder to understand when we take into account the report of the Auditor General. All she talks about is classification. And classification in such a large public service is extremely important, because classification is how employees sense whether they are being treated fairly or unfairly, in relation to each other.

With the introduction of the merit principle, it becomes more difficult to satisfy people. The bill contains absolutely no provisions that take family constraints into consideration. That is too bad, because as an employer, the public service has certain responsibilities, such as providing excellent service, obviously, but also of setting an example when it comes to providing good working conditions for employees.

I see that the Minister of Human Resources Development is on the other side and I would like to draw her attention to employee training. We have seen that in her department, there are employees required to apply legislation who do not understand it, which has caused a great deal of problems for the public.

Public Service Modernization ActGovernment Orders

5:45 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—St. Clair, ON

Mr. Speaker, I think that some of the Liberal members and I have a few problems with the oath or affirmation. I will read the affirmation contained in the bill. It reads as follows:

I, (the name of the person), do swear (or solemnly affirm) that I will faithfully, truly and impartially, to the best of my judgment, skill and ability, execute and perform the office of—

Then the job description follows.

I would like to know what the member thinks, whether or not she has a problem, since she comes from the province of Quebec, with this oath or affirmation.

Public Service Modernization ActGovernment Orders

5:45 p.m.

Bloc

Francine Lalonde Bloc Mercier, QC

Mr. Speaker, I must say I did not dwell on this clause, which says that public servants are committed to give honest services. I do not remember, but I think it is okay.

But one thing I am absolutely sure of about the bill is that it is already enough that the queen be defined as the employer without us having to swear an oath of allegiance to her. I believe this is going too far, all the more so since an oath like the one you have read seems quite appropriate for a country like Canada.

Public Service Modernization ActGovernment Orders

5:45 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

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

Mr. Speaker, I would like the member to comment on the issue we talked about of a whistle-blower.

The reprinted bill clearly outlines on page 8 under consultation committees and co-development that issues may include, among other things:

(b) the disclosure of information concerning wrongdoing in the public service and the protection from reprisal of employees who disclose such information.

There is a further recognition of the whistle-blowing principle on page 108 in clause 11.1(1). It states that in its exercise of its human resources management responsibilities under subparagraph 7(1)(e), that the Treasury Board may and it lists a whole bunch of things, but subparagraph (h) states generally that it shall have a whistle-blower policy.

There is a recognition that the former internal memo is now going to be recognized in law. It goes a long way in providing a climate of encouraging employees to report if they find such wrongdoing. I am wondering if the member has increased confidence in the bill because of it.

Public Service Modernization ActGovernment Orders

5:45 p.m.

Bloc

Francine Lalonde Bloc Mercier, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my dear colleague for reminding me of that. But you know, action speaks louder than words, and this holds true for many motions adopted in this House.

For a bill to adequately protect whistle blowers, it must contain a number of rules. I am glad you had these clauses added. But their effectiveness remains to be seen.

Public Service Modernization ActGovernment Orders

5:50 p.m.

Bloc

Robert Lanctôt Bloc Châteauguay, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will be brief. They say that we need to recruit and that there is a lack of competent employees. What message are we sending to those who want to become public servants, if it is known that managers will now decide who gets promoted? They will determine how things are done and employees will have reduced access to remedies.

Furthermore, a Bloc Quebecois amendment was rejected, although it proposed something as simple as giving out information on the concept of merit, in other words explaining the essential skills required for a job, whenever positions are advertised. We asked that this information be given to the public, the unions and all public service employees. That amendment was rejected.

What does my colleague from Mercier think about this?

Public Service Modernization ActGovernment Orders

5:50 p.m.

Bloc

Francine Lalonde Bloc Mercier, QC

Mr. Speaker, this is becoming quite a cause for concern. If we do not know who will be aware of job openings or the qualifications required, the independence of the staffing officer becomes even more questionable. I have read what will be required and it depends entirely on the person who establishes the requirements.

Consideration will be given to all relevant skills, including for future operations. This means that anyone knowing what changes will be made in any given unit would have an advantage over the others. Furthermore, we cannot ignore the possibility of saying that the job is for someone who has one brown eye and one blue eye and curly black hair.

Public Service Modernization ActGovernment Orders

5:50 p.m.

Liberal

Julian Reed Liberal Halton, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today as a proud member of the Parliament of Canada, a constitutional monarchy, with the Queen of Canada as the head of state. Today is the 50th anniversary of the coronation of our Queen.

It gave me no pleasure to vote against Bill C-25 last week, the proposed public service modernization act. I did so for one reason only and it was because the oath of allegiance to our monarch has been removed. I find the continuing erosion of our constitutional monarchy, the finest form of governance on the face of the earth, completely unacceptable.

I would like to remind the President of the Treasury Board that the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration has declared that the proposed oath of citizenship in Bill C-18 will retain a pledge of allegiance to Her Majesty the Queen. In fact, it would read:

From this day forward, I pledge my loyalty and allegiance to Canada and Her Majesty Elizabeth the Second, Queen of Canada. I promise to respect our country’s rights and freedoms, to uphold our democratic values, to faithfully observe our laws and fulfil my duties and obligations as a Canadian citizen.

I am in no way opposed to the idea of reforming the public service. I am opposed to the chipping away at the basis of our institutional framework. It is a slippery slope and I fear that, after one little chip here and one little chip there, in 20 or 50 years the bedrock of the Canadian system will be gone and we will pretend not to know how it happened.

The constitutional monarchy is part of our Constitution, history and heritage. I remind all members that the head of state of Canada is the Queen of Canada. When public servants swear their oath to the Queen, our head of state, they are swearing it to Canada. The oath does not involve the Queen in her personal capacity but rather as the symbol of our country, our Constitution and our traditions. Some might argue that the monarchy is no longer relevant, but I fail to see how it could not be relevant. As members of Parliament, we take the oath, which reads:

I [full name of member] do swear, That I will be faithful and bear true Allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

Without taking the oath, we cannot even take our place in the House.

Public servants hold positions of public trust. By taking an oath, they are pledging to conduct themselves in the best interests of the country. It reminds the person taking the oath of the serious obligations and responsibilities that he or she is assuming. Not for a minute am I suggesting that Canada has some kind of backward colonial mentality. I would argue that the oath of allegiance to Her Majesty serves a useful function in three ways.

First, it reaffirms to the public servant that responsibility and accountability are vertical concepts. The authority of a public servant derives from the Queen. There is a vertical chain of command that must be respected in the form of advice that makes its way up through the ranks to Her Majesty or representative, and in the form of orders and instructions that must be executed that make their way down through the ranks. Public servants are ultimately accountable to the Crown, not just the public, the minister or their manager.

Second, the oath of office is an important initiation ceremony. Just as we ask new citizens to take the oath, we ask those who wish to join our legal and administrative institutions to make a personal commitment by taking the oath. Third, by removing the oath of allegiance the basic framework of our system of government is undermined. Only last year the Department of Canadian Heritage, through the golden jubilee celebrations, played a terrific role in filling the gaps in our knowledge and appreciation of our distinct constitutional heritage.

Allow me to remind the House what the Minister of Canadian Heritage said when she launched the federal golden jubilee initiatives. She said:

Fifty years after her accession to the throne, Elizabeth II remains a symbol of continuity, stability and tradition in a world that is under a barrage of constant change. Canadians of my generation have known only a single sovereign, faithful and loyal to our people.

The Queen and the heritage she gives to us is not just a part of our past but part of our common future. As a mature country, we do not need to break our ties with the past. The oath of allegiance fulfills an important function. We should take this opportunity to send this back to the committee so it can be reconsidered for the sake of consistency with the member's oath and with other government bills, like Bill C-18, which expressly mentions Her Majesty in the oath. It is unfortunate that that will not happen now.

The Ottawa Citizen is against dropping the oath of allegiance. An editorial on February 17 stated:

The monarchy is symbolic of the continuity of Canada's constitutional government, and the Queen is our head of state. It's not too much to ask that those who choose to serve the public be reminded of that by having to swear allegiance to Her Majesty.

Let me remind my Alliance colleagues across the floor what the member for St. Albert said:

At the same time, if our public servants are not required to swear to the head of state that they would execute their office to the best of their ability, then what are we as a country?

I would also like to remind the members of the fourth party in the House what their leader, who was then the member for Calgary Centre, wrote to a concerned Canadian, “I can assure you that I and the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada remain firm in our support of the Canadian constitutional structure and our support for the monarchy. The Queen, and indeed the entire monarchy, represent an important foundation of Canadian tradition and heritage, and have contributed to our country's formation and development in countless ways”.

I expect then that they would be concerned with the dropping of the oath of allegiance from Bill C-25 and would support returning it to committee for further consideration.

In these politically fractious times it is important that our civil service remain beyond the fray, always providing Parliament with the non-partisan professionalism that is renown around the world. As my friend from the NDP, the member for Winnipeg--Transcona, said:

[The Queen] symbolizes for many the merits of a constitutional monarchy in which the head of state...is separate and apart from the ongoing political struggles of the day.

It is a significant reminder to us in the House that politicians will come and go, but Parliament and the public service will remain. Swearing the oath of allegiance is an important reminder to our civil service. It is a symbol of the requirement for serving to the utmost of their abilities in the best interests of Canada.

There is talk about adopting principles to provide a framework for the public service. There were amendments to make the values upon which human resource management is based more explicit. Amendments to commit to transparency, linguistic duality, and the strengthening of the merit principle are all good things, but in modernizing the public service let us not throw away things that actually work, like the oath to our head of state.

As the public service moves from a rules based system to a value based system, it is important to have an organizational culture that articulates and lives the principles that are the basis of its everyday work. At the same time, the oath is an important symbol of initiation into that culture, and a personal and moral obligation to work to the best of one's ability.

The House does not have the opportunity to act and take responsibility for the legislation proposed by the government because of the motion now on the floor by the member for Ottawa—Vanier.

I thank God there is the other place where amendments may be made in sober second thought and I pray that never again will we find our constitutional monarchy diminished or otherwise altered without full national debate. Let this mischief be now ended.

Public Service Modernization ActGovernment Orders

6 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, is the member saying that because we live under a constitutional monarchy, whether people like it or not, that there is some incongruity between the fact that we as members of Parliament take an oath to the Queen while employees working in the government do not take an oath? What are the advantages of a constitutional monarchy over having the Governor General perform the roles that the Queen plays?

Public Service Modernization ActGovernment Orders

6 p.m.

Liberal

Julian Reed Liberal Halton, ON

Mr. Speaker, to begin to remove the oath to the head of state is simply exacerbating an inconsistency. There is an inconsistency if we leave an oath in one area and we take an oath out of another area. To suggest that it would enhance things somehow if we were to do away with the Queen and substitute a head of state in Canada would be denying the history with which we have grown.

It is an accident that our monarch is a British monarch. It could have easily been a French or Spanish monarch. It might have been at one time. It happens to be an accident of history, a very fortunate act of history in many ways because of the way the parliamentary process has evolved under the British system. We are privileged to have that, but it is a sign of maturity for us to continue to acknowledge it.