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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

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:45 p.m.

Bloc

Robert Lanctôt Bloc Châteauguay, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for Matapédia—Matane for his speech and for having raised an issue about which I probably should have known. I do some boating and I have always wondered why we bother putting anodes on our boats and why we always end up with some of these small shellfish we do not know much about. I am sure it has something to do with these invasive species.

I would like the hon. member to tell us why we end up with invasive species like these when we boat on private lakes. How do they make their way into a lake that cannot be accessed by the river or some other way? I believe such species can be found in several lakes in Quebec. In my case, every time we use our boats, we find small shellfish stuck on the anodes. I always wonder how they managed to find their way into our lakes.

I would also like the hon. member to tell us if there is a solution to this problem in the Richelieu River and the Great Lakes. I happen to know several people who boat over there and I realize that the problem they are facing is much more serious than the one we have on private lakes? Are there solutions to this problem? How do we get rid of these small shellfish and what do we call them? Can anything be done to solve the problem?

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:50 p.m.

Bloc

Jean-Yves Roy Bloc Matapédia—Matane, QC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague just referred to something very important. As far as public awareness is concerned, he just addressed one of the elements that we would like to see put into practice. He was asking me how I could have that problem while on the lake in my canoe or in my boat. Let us say that it is a bigger boat. I do not know much about boats, but let us say that I am not rowing, at least.

It is very simple. People go from one lake to another. What they do not know is that once they have been on a contaminated lake with their boat, eggs are stuck underneath the boat. The boat should be completely cleaned and washed before being put into a new body of water, to eliminate potential contamination.

This is a very important element in terms of prevention. Can people imagine what that means when they take their boat out of the water? In terms of prevention, it is really important. If they take your boat out of the water to bring it to another body of water, it absolutely has to be cleaned. But did somebody ever tell them that they had to do it? Probably not.

This is where the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans blames the current government. The government is responsible for protecting the resource. Thus, it has the responsibility of informing citizens on the measures that must be taken to avoid spreading the contamination from one body of water to another. This is not being done at this time. The committee has asked for this. Voluntary community organizations have also asked that the government supports them in their public awareness and information campaigns. This is very important.

Of course, when one does not know about this issue, one cannot think that this can have such a major impact on bodies of water in Quebec and across the country. One cannot imagine that we are unconsciously destroying our resources.

We can talk about the zebra mussel. I talked about this earlier. This is the main species that invades our waters. It is virtually indestructible, because it reproduces extremely fast. I could show you a picture of a shopping cart that was put in the Great Lakes for a few months. When it was taken out, zebra mussels had covered the whole cart. It had become almost invisible; it was almost a sculpture. This gives an idea of the ability of this creature to invade our waters.

This is currently happening in the St. Lawrence River, at Montreal, and in the bodies of water wherever there is a connection with the St. Lawrence and the drainage basins.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:50 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask my colleague the following question. Does he think that the federal government is doing a good job of protecting out resources, our fish resources in particular?

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:55 p.m.

Bloc

Jean-Yves Roy Bloc Matapédia—Matane, QC

Mr. Speaker, that is a loaded question, I believe. You will understand that I have no intention of saying that the government is protecting our resource well, when I have been saying the opposite for the past 20 minutes, and am firmly convinced of it.

We need only look at what went on this spring with the fisheries, with the cod fisheries. Let us look at what is happening elsewhere in the world, in order to see how our successive governments, and the federal government, which, I would remind hon. members, has complete and total responsibility for managing the resource, has in fact managed it.

The resource has been managed in such a way that nowadays we cannot even fish for cod in the Atlantic, the Gulf of St. Lawrence and off Newfoundland. Let us see what is happening elsewhere in the world. Let us take Iceland as an example. In Iceland, since the late 1970s, they have managed the resource in such a way that now, in the waters of Iceland—a tiny country—they can catch from 212,000 to 250,000 tonnes of cod per year.

Last year, we caught only 6,000 tonnes. Now we are no longer fishing, because there is a moratorium on cod. The resource has been badly managed. Foreign vessels were allowed to pillage the waters off Newfoundland, the nose and tail of the Grand Banks, and over the years in the Gulf of St. Lawrence as well. For solely political gain, huge foreign vessels have been allowed to drag the sea floor and totally destroy the resource.

The current government is not the only one responsible. This has been going on for 50 years. Quebec has been demanding to manage the resource ever since 1994. Newfoundland is now calling for co-management, and rightly so. If we allow the present government to continue to manage the resource, whether shrimp, crab or other resources, there will be no fishery left within 10 years.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I had hoped to be speaking on Bill C-25, but as one of the members has raised a motion to concur in the fourth report of the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans to do with aquatic invasive species, uninvited guests, I took a copy of the report and had an opportunity to read a few of the areas.

The work the members have done on this report is excellent. In fact in one particular area, and that is with regard to zebra mussel control, it is a matter which I know quite a bit about because my daughter is in a masters program right now and is doing her thesis on zebra mussels in Lake Erie. She has done a lot of diving and is now analyzing her samples in the lab trying to look for some of the solutions.

If we were to take a copy of the current Maclean's magazine, we would see one of the beaches on Lake Erie that is totally covered with zebra mussels. It really dramatizes the significant problem that we have with unwanted species, or what the report calls, uninvited guests, what it means to other aquatic life and what it means to the peaceful and enjoyable use of our resources. Of course these so-called uninvited guests do in fact migrate by a number of means. It is a very serious problem.

I know the fisheries committee must have had a very important set of reviews and hearings on issues such as zebra mussels, sea lampreys and other aquatic species that are invasive species in our waterways.

I want to go back to the zebra mussels simply because I think it is probably worth giving a few more details. I note in the report that the zebra mussels are described as small molluscs about the size of a fingernail, and originally from the Black and Caspian Seas area. They spread through eastern Europe in the 18th century and in the mid-1980s in Lake St. Clair. They are believed to have been introduced by ballast water discharged from an ocean going vessel. That is important to understand. Obviously we need to have the kinds of rules and safeguards to ensure that we protect ourselves from the migration, naturally or by other means, of some of these invasive species into our systems because of the disruptive effect it has on the balance of the environment and the aquatic environment in Canada.

As well, these species, like the zebra mussel, are carried by boat traffic and normal flows of water, and the mussel has spread rapidly through the Great Lakes and beyond. This is one of the reasons why my daughter is undertaking this research on zebra mussels. It is very important that we find out, not only the damaging effect they have but what effect they have had on other species within not only the aquatic life but also the plant life as well. These are very critical issues.

The committee dealt with a number of issues. I note that it went right back to reports from the 1995 on the biodiversity convention, such as the Canadian biodiversity strategy released by Environment Canada. There were a number of government commitments in there and I thought it would be useful to advise members of the House of them if they have not had an opportunity to look at this. I know the Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister is on the committee and probably will want to speak as well.

However issues such as developing and implementing effective means to identifying and monitoring alien organisms obviously makes some sense. Determining priorities for allocating resources for the control of harmful alien organisms based on their impact on native biodiversity and economic resources and implementing effective control, or where possible, eradication measures, obviously is a very important aspect where there are negative impacts identified. Also important is identifying and eliminating common sources of unintentional introductions.

When we consider the number of ships that we have in the Great Lakes or the St. Lawrence from all around the world, ballast water can in fact contain alien species. Canadians would like to know what efforts we are taking to ensure that we are protecting our natural resources, the Great Lakes and other waterways.

A further recommendation in that biodiversity strategy was the development of national and international databases that would support the identification in anticipation of the introduction of potentially harmful alien organisms in order to develop and control prevention measures. That is an important aspect. That work has to be done because these things not only can happen, they have happened.

That is why we asked for our best and brightest to work on the science to find out how we can prevent or at least mitigate substantial damage.

Another recommendation was that we should ensure that there is adequate legislation and enforcement to control introductions or escapes of harmful alien organisms, and to improve preventive mechanisms such as screening standards and risk assessment procedures. This follows the other recommendations.

One of the other important areas was the recommendation to enhance public education and awareness of impacts of harmful alien organisms, and the steps that can be taken to prevent their introduction. It is like a lot of things in this world. Public education is probably the common element in the resolution of most problems, whether we are talking about child poverty, domestic violence or family breakdown. If we have a problem to deal with, public education is a very important aspect of it because we all have a role to play. There is the Kyoto commitment.

How do Canadians participate, for instance, in ensuring that we meet our targets in terms of greenhouse emission reductions? The House will know that business and industry had a tremendous amount to say about Kyoto and its impact on their businesses. This morning I had a visit from the cement industry who wanted to talk about how we could still pursue our Kyoto objectives but not in a way which would create substantial impacts on business and industry. The aspect of public education and awareness not only on the impacts but on what we can do to have an impact is extremely important.

The committee had a large number of recommendations and I do not intend to go through them. The committee concluded that, while very well intentioned, the federal initiative presented at the hearings came too late. That is unfortunate. It also felt that it was focused on processes and purposes rather than on immediate actions.

It is important to raise with the House the work that committees do along with the aspect that we have not brought forward an action plan. We may agree with principles and concepts. The fisheries committee has done a service to Parliament by raising the concern that we have not pushed forward with action plans on this urgent matter.

The committee favours an approach in which immediate actions will be taken in four specific areas. First, is the adoption of balanced water management regulation and development of treatment standards. Second, is the inclusion of species of Asian carp in schedule II of the regulations. This is another aspect, other than the zebra mussels, which they call an uninvited guest or invasive species. Third, is the prohibition of the sale and trade of Asian carp under section 43 of the Fisheries Act. Fourth, is the contribution to the full extent of our commitment to the budget of the sea lamprey control program.

I know that this is good news to the member for Huron—Bruce who has been a champion in this place for a number of years with regard to the sea lamprey problem. I recall when he actually brought to Parliament a large tank with sea lamprey so that members could see what they looked like. They are a very unusual species.

The fisheries committee has brought all of these issues to the attention of the House. With regard to the impact, the House will find that the issues that the committee has raised are the kinds of issues that we would fully expect from a committee. I am not sure whether it is just a matter of getting concurrence in a report, or whether we should also take note that committee reports should never just sit there without a prompt response from ministers and ministries, and other parties in the government.

This is an important process we have gone through. I thank the member for raising the concurrence motion for the House to consider. I move:

That the House proceed to orders of the day.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

4:05 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

4:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

4:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

4:05 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

4:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

4:05 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

All those opposed will please say nay.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

4:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

4:05 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

In my opinion the nays have it.

And more than five members having risen:

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

4:05 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Call in the members.

Before the taking of the vote:

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

4:40 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Ken Epp Canadian Alliance Elk Island, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I have observed that though the whips have taken their seats there have been a number of members who have come in. Is that rule of the House now being suspended?

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

4:50 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I declare the motion carried.

Order, please. It is my duty, pursuant to Standing Order 38, to inform the House that the questions to be raised at tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Windsor West, Border Security; the hon. member for South Shore, Taxation.

The House resumed consideration of the motion 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.

Public Service Modernization ActGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to debate Bill C-25, a bill to modernize the 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.

As a member of the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates, we had an opportunity to review the bill which was forwarded to us by the House. It has been 40 years since these acts have been looked at and amended. I think a good question for members to pose would be why it has taken so long, particularly since there are so many substantive amendments that are considered in the bill.

In addition, a special task force was formed to research and make recommendations with regard to the changes in the bill, and to make other proposals which would deal with the structure of the bill.

I want to talk briefly about the structure and the way in which Bill C-25 was put together because it caused substantial concern at committee stage.

Clause 2 of the bill states “ The Public Service Labour Relations Act is enacted as follows”. Bill C-25 is a bill that has within it two other bills which currently exist. Part 1 attempts to enact the Public Service Labour Relations Act, which already exists. We also find amendments at the end of the bill which in fact would repeal the existing act. We will find similarly in another clause a rewrite of the Public Service Employment Act. Again the existing Public Service Employment Act is repealed.

We also have consequential amendments to other acts, the Financial Administration Act and the Canadian Centre for Management Development Act. This is the first time I have come across a bill that is structured in this fashion. If we look for instance at clause 2, clause 2 in itself is actually an entire bill. It is an entire bill with each of the clauses that we would find in a bill on a stand-alone basis, and similarly for clause 11 in the bill on the rewrite of the Public Service Employment Act.

When the committee did its work we considered about 120 amendments put forward by the opposition. We worked through a number of other amendments from the government one at a time. It took a great deal of time.

Since the task force had been formulated and it was making recommendations to the Privy Council Office with regard to how we were going to proceed on this, a number of questions were raised for outside experts to comment on. One of the questions had to do with the hierarchy that was contemplated for the public service.

There are three elements within this whole regime of the public service: the Treasury Board, the Public Service Commission and the public service itself. One of the areas we discussed had to do with why they decided to have a hybrid responsibility for the Public Service Commission, where it had auditing responsibilities, i.e. management responsibilities, in addition to having those representing the employees and, as with the other unions, representing the best interests of employees and protecting their interests vis-à-vis the laws of the land.

Questions were asked. I do not want to get into the details but there was a point at which information and copies of letters for which we had asked in order to better understand why certain decisions were taken to structure the bill, Bill C-25, in a fashion that put two other bills entirely within Bill C-25, were denied to the committee.

The response we received was that they were privileged documents that the committee could not see. I think this was one of the first opportunities that a committee had basically challenged the privacy, the confidentiality or the protection of documents. As a result, I put forward the motion in committee to suspend our clause by clause proceedings so we could pursue the acquisition of documents that we thought were relevant to our consideration of Bill C-25.

I am pleased to say that it did not take very long for the Privy Council Office to provide us with a complete binder of documents. I read all the documents that were received. Unless one is a management consultant, a labour relations consultant, an employee consultant and every other kind of expert we can imagine in terms of expertise related to the public service, it is a very difficult to appreciate the insights that these people were giving to the government with regard to how to structure the bill.

However I am glad we were able to get those documents because it helped me to understand that the experts had some concern about having a hybrid role for the Public Service Commission. They felt that since the legislation related to the public service, which had not been dealt with for some 40 years, that the culture had been so deeply rooted, so deeply embedded in the system that it would be extremely difficult for us to get exactly to where we wanted to be over the long term in the best interest of the structure for the benefit of the public service.

Ultimately, the recommendations and some of the documents that I read were basically saying that this was as far as we could push it. I think this was the first time that I realized there was some concern about how the public service would receive the changes to the legislation.

The issues were: could the public servants take it? Would they take the change? Would they accept it? Would they embrace it? Would it be able to cause a paradigm shift or a cultural shift? Would it be able to break the very deep roots of the way the system had been operating?

We know there were situations within the hiring practices of the public service that it was easier to hire people on a part time or on a contract basis than it was on a full time basis. It was shorter. It could in fact get people quicker.

I guess the bottom line was that we needed a human body to be in that role, to do that job and to make sure all the responsibilities were discharged very quickly. This was endemic of the kind of problems that it had incurred over the period within the public service, t this culture of how it operated, and I think the word “cynicism” was used , and there were questions.

I asked questions about whether the public service would accept the kinds of changes that were being asked, changes to concepts such as merit and whistleblowers, political involvement. Everyone knows that public service involvement in the political process at various levels is an issue that has been dealt with in the bill and it has been controversial over the years. I think there are now guidelines which people will understand.

As a consequence I am very comfortable with the steps that have been taken. I concluded and I think the committee members concluded that carrying the public service modernization process at least to this extent, this step forward, was all that we should do at this time and that every intent is that we will continue to look for ways to improve the administration of the public service and the relationship between the employer and the employees, and to further clarify the role of the Public Service Commission.

I should say as well that the committee was very interested in working with members of the Public Service Commission, who were very active and well represented at the hearings. They provided input to the committee and they addressed a number of concerns they had. It was very clear that the issues being raised were tremendously complex and broad because we were dealing not only with the modernization of certain aspects, but with the modernization of two existing acts and consequential amendments to others.

The bill is not an easy bill to deal with. Therefore part of my intervention today is to suggest to the House and to the leaderships of the parties that bills in this form do not do Parliament a good service. They are too complex and too detailed to ask parliamentarians to get into. It is like an omnibus bill. It deals with far too many things: labour relations, the Employment Act, amendments to the Financial Administration Act and to a number of other acts.

When we get into that level of detail and go through the various processes that we go through, with the limitations that parliamentarians have to study this information, it becomes very problematic for members of Parliament to discharge their responsibilities as committee members simply because there is not enough time allotted to the process and questioning of witnesses to examine all the areas relevant to the bill. It is clear to me that this, if I did not know better, was an attempt to make absolutely sure that we could not get into it in the detail that we should have.

The bill should have been at least two, if not three, separate bills. However I do understand that there is a sense of urgency, that we want a bill to go forward very quickly because it has been a long time. However if it has taken 40 years to get around to modernizing the public service legislation and two years for a task force, that clearly reflects how long it takes to do the job properly.

I am concerned about the process, the form of the bill and the fact that two bills are buried in it. Members should grab the bill and look through it. If they are told to look at clause 19, they should be very careful because clause 19 appears three times.

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

5 p.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell Ontario

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I have consulted with all House leaders and I think there would be unanimous consent for the following, which is a request that was made of me by some opposition House leaders, one of them directly and another in an indirect way, supported by the two others.

I move:

That, notwithstanding any standing order, no report stage amendment to Bill C-7, of which notice is given on June 2, 2003, shall be ruled out of order on account of insufficient notice.

In other words, it would permit report stage amendments to Bill C-7 to be tabled today and to be in order providing, of course, that they are in order. Otherwise, it is the decision of the Speaker.

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is there unanimous consent to adopt the motion?

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

(Motion agreed to)

The House resumed consideration of the motion 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; and of the motion that the question we now put.

Public Service Modernization ActGovernment Orders

June 2nd, 2003 / 5:05 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, let me conclude on this point. The difficulty is that if we incorporate a rewrite of an existing bill or existing act of Parliament, an existing law of the country, into a proposed bill, changes are being made from the existing legislation to what is in Bill C-25 which are not evident on their face unless we get supplementary binders.

I would like to quote from one of these binders, which shows the proposed text with regard to the oath or affirmation of office. It gives the proposed text, the current wording, and the explanation. This particular change would eliminate “so help me God” from the oath of office for public servants. I wanted to change that and in fact at committee stage I got it changed to get it back in. The explanation states that it had been removed to reflect the diversity of the Canadian public and respect for different religious beliefs.

We can imagine what it is like when we have to go through three binders of this. With all the work we have to do, it becomes very problematic. This is not a good model to follow in terms of legislation. I would ask Parliament and I would ask the House leaders and the government House leader to ensure that when bills come to this place we are not faced with a situation where parliamentarians cannot do an adequate job on the legislation. We cannot do our job when we are faced with pressure to get bills through but not given the time.

I have mentioned the oath. Let me say that not only was I disturbed that the oath eliminated reference to “so help me God”, but also disturbed that it eliminated reference to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

People have different views on the monarchy, but today is the 50th anniversary of the coronation of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, today we have a new coin coming out with the new image of the Queen on it, and today we are debating a bill that eliminates reference to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

The last time I looked, Mr. Speaker, this was the Parliament of Canada, based on the parliamentary model of Britain, Parliament being the Queen through her representative the Governor General, together with the Senate, and together with the House of Commons. That is Parliament. How is it that a bill could eliminate reference to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II without our having a debate in this place? We wanted to have a debate here. The Queen has been to Canada 22 times since she became Queen. That alone tells me that Queen Elizabeth II loves Canada, and from the reaction of Canadians when she comes here, it is clear that Canadians love Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

If we are going to change oaths, we have to change them in a transparent way. There was an attempt to move a motion before debate to have the bill sent back to committee so that it could reconsider eliminating the reference to Her Majesty in the legislation. However, there is now a motion before us that the question be now put. That prohibits anybody else from putting a motion to the House.

However, I am aware of at least three different items in the legislation that have to be repaired. Clauses 118 and 119 are inconsistent and have to be repaired. There is one clause in which the reference to “so help me God” has still not been reinstated because of a technicality at committee, which should be remedied. I think the House should have an opportunity to debate whether or not references to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II should be eliminated, rather than after only four speakers at third reading being pre-empted from making a motion to that effect.

I really believe that omnibus bills are not very helpful to parliamentarians. They allow us to get through the back door what we cannot get through the front door. If Canadians and parliamentarians at large knew that the references to God and to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II were being summarily taken out of the oaths of office, given what we did with a private member's bill recently and the Citizenship Act, why is it that Parliament cannot debate here in the House what our oath should be in Canada? Where are our values?

Let me refer to today's Ottawa Citizen , in which I was absolutely amazed and delighted to see an editorial that stated:

Her Majesty is the embodiment of an institutional order that allows us to be the kind of nation that we are.

It went on to state that “the Crown represents order and justice...as an institution that transcends politics”. In short, the Crown is the “guardian of law and liberty”.

I believe that we should have an opportunity to discuss this in an open and transparent way and therefore I would propose a motion. I would like to ask for the unanimous consent of Parliament to withdraw the motion now before the House and to recommit the bill back to committee to reconsider the elimination of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II from the oath of office.

Public Service Modernization ActGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

Is there consent to move the motion?

Public Service Modernization ActGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.