House of Commons Hansard #15 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was heritage.


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4:15 p.m.


Reg Alcock Liberal Winnipeg South, MB

Mr. Speaker, I must ask to have at least a half hour just to begin to list the things that I would do in that regard. To deal seriously with this, the member raises a point to which a response is needed.

I call this the modernization of public management. Some of the excesses and concerns that the member identifies are more a product of antiquated systems and antiquated oversight. He has heard me speak many time about the lack of building modern financials when we began to delegate authority without any ability to bring information back.

My short answer to him is yes, I absolutely will, but I will go further than that. We have restored comptrollership. That was something which was taken out. I will not play the game of who took it out or under which government. We could go that way, but in a sense it is irrelevant. At the end of the day we want to get down to building something that is excellent: new comptrollership, new internal audit, new systems for disclosure, more proactive transparency and disclosure of the activities of government. It is in my term as president that we have started posting all the hospitality. Now we are posting all the contracting, I am talking about grants and contributions, and we are aggressively being transparent. That is an important feature in accountability.

As the member will know, I am coming down with the reports on governance, accountability and ministerial responsibility, but it goes beyond that. We are creating a whistleblowing tool. An interesting discussion is going on at the committee right now on how it gets fitted. I am rather enjoying the engagement of the committee as people are struggling with it.

One of the wonderful things about a minority government is that everybody in this chamber is responsible and shares in these decisions. We will craft legislation. When we get away from the heat of question period and get down to the work of actually building legislation that produces excellence. I think the House is up to it and we will do a good job. We all have an interest in that.

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4:20 p.m.


Réal Lapierre Bloc Lévis—Bellechasse, QC

Mr. Speaker, the purpose of the bill is to make human resources management within the public service more consistent. Can the President of the Treasury Board assure the House that merit will prevail over partisanship and that bilingualism will really be taken into account during the hiring process?

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4:20 p.m.


Reg Alcock Liberal Winnipeg South, MB

Mr. Speaker, absolutely, without question and equivocation, what we want, and I think what every member in the House wants, is excellence in the delivery of public services.

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October 26th, 2004 / 4:20 p.m.


Guy Lauzon Conservative Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to say a few words today on Bill C-8, a bill to create and empower the Office of the President of the Public Service Human Resources Management Agency.

As the President of the Treasury Board said, that agency was created last year by the Public Service Modernization Act. Bill C-8 is essentially a housekeeping bill. It is part of the government's effort to implement its reforms of the public service which are laid out in detail in the Public Service Modernization Act. I am sure the Chair will forgive me if I spend much of my time discussing that act and the need for public service reform in general.

As the House knows, I was a public servant for 22 years. I served as the president of a union local and as a manager in four federal government offices in Ottawa, one in Sudbury and one in Cornwall. When I study legislation like Bill C-8 or Bill C-11, which deals with disclosures of wrongdoing, I am able to look at it from the point of view of a public servant. Often that perspective seems to be missing from the government's considerations when it drafts legislation.

Although I recognize the need for more rational and functional structure for the public service, I am somewhat skeptical when I hear about public service modernization. There were many positive steps taken in last year's Public Service Modernization Act which Bill C-8 would supplement. Many of the changes are long overdue improvements to the nation's public service. If carried out properly, they could lead to a much happier, less strike prone and more productive public service. As I said, I am very skeptical.

At the time it was tabled, the Public Service Modernization Act was touted by the government as the first major public service restructuring in 35 years. The government is being more than a little naive if it thinks it can make up for 35 years of neglect all at once.

The reality is other attempts have been made to modernize the public service. I was part of the public service during many of those attempts at modernization. I have lived through them. I have learned that the government is usually a step or two behind the pressures and demands of the public service. Somehow or another the government cannot seem to keep up with the public service. We must never fall into the trap of assuming that our work is done and that a single act of Parliament can instantly reverse the disenchantment in the public service over long-standing issues.

I asked the President of the Treasury Board in committee last week why he would not create an independent, external body to receive and investigate disclosures of wrongdoing and protect those public servants that he spoke so highly of, the ones who make disclosures. His answer was that the Public Service Commission would change and would become more independent and more respected by public servants.

It is fine to give that responsibility to the Public Service Commission. It is always dangerous to assume that the culture of the public service will change that quickly and dramatically because the government makes a few organizational changes. As I said, I was part of that same public service for 22 years. It does not change quite that easily.

The Public Service Modernization Act, and by extension the bill before us today, does make some steps in the right direction, and I am happy to recognize those important steps.

By the government's own admission over the past few decades, the public service has remained structurally and functionally a top-down organization, with too many isolated pillars of communication and accountability. The Public Service Modernization Act provides for more flexibility in staffing and in managing people. It also stresses the need for a cooperative approach to labour management relations, which I fully support and which is long overdue.

The employees who actually deliver end products and services are the ones who know best what works and what does not work. They must have more say in the running of the workplace. If the intent of the Public Service Modernization Act becomes reality, the result will be happier federal workplaces.

The act also overhauls staff training and development and more clearly delineates the roles of key players in the human resources area, in Treasury Board, in the Public Service Commission and in the various deputy ministers and their equivalents. That is where the Public Service Modernization Act connects with Bill C-8.

Bill C-8 would allow Treasury Board to delegate its powers pertaining to human resources management, official languages, employment equity and values and ethics to the President of the Public Service Human Resources Management Agency.

Under Bill C-8, the President of the Public Service Human Resources Management Agency would replace the President of the Public Service Commission, an ex officio governor of the Canada School of Public Service, and would replace the Secretary of Treasury Board as the person providing the Official Languages Commissioner with reports on the monitoring and auditing of the federal institutions with respect to their compliance with official languages rules.

As I mentioned earlier, it is very difficult and dangerous to prejudge the impact of a reorganization like this. It needs to be considered in a broader context, in this case in the context of the Public Service Modernization Act which is very complex. At the end of the day the most important stage of any bureaucratic restructuring process is listening to the front line workers whose effectiveness is at stake.

If serious problems arise, the public servants will let us know, only if we are prepared to listen to them. Unfortunately, the government's track record has been poor when it comes to listening to front line public servants.

We can tell that the government does not listen to public servants just by the way it treats whistleblowers. Bill C-11 is supposed to address this issue, but it will not do the job unless it is amended, because the government has not taken into consideration what public servants had to say about the way the program would be implemented.

I believe that all the technical changes in the world will be for naught unless the government listens to and respects its employees. It will get respect from public servants only if it shows them some respect. Only through a relationship based on mutual respect will the government be able to rely on a modern, flexible and efficient public service.

In closing, I will support Bill C-8 and I will encourage my caucus colleagues to do likewise. However, my support comes with a cautionary note for the government. Do not make the mistake of thinking that mechanical changes will resolve all the country's public service issues in one fell swoop. The government has to be dedicated to working with public servants in a respectful way over the long term. The government has a tough road to hoe if it intends to overcome its record of the past decade.

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4:30 p.m.

Sudbury Ontario


Diane Marleau LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the President of the Treasury Board and Minister responsible for the Canadian Wheat Board

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to hear that the Conservative Party will support Bill C-8.

I also want to remind the member, the official critic for this legislation and for Bill C-11, the whistleblowing legislation, that it is our intention to ensure that we listen and that we have the best possible bill. We feel that public servants do us a tremendous amount of good services. They work hard. They give of themselves unbelievably. I often think we, as parliamentarians, and as Canadians do not appreciate them enough.

I am lucky in my riding. I have had some great public servants. As a matter of fact the hon. critic actually worked at HRDC in Sudbury.

However, I want to emphasize that in all my years as a member of Parliament I really have not seen the politicization of the public servants in my riding at all. They continue to be very good at responding to any request from any party. I have been the MP, but there have been other MPs from other parties, and I think they do a very good job.

How would the member change that? The member seems to think we do not listen to people. How would he have us listen more than we are right now, trying to do the best possible job? The member has been a public servant. I am very interested in hearing what his suggestions would be to make this bill and Bill C-11 better.

There are no magic solutions. It will take some time before we see any improvements or we see massive change. However, governing is a work in progress. We take a few steps forward and if it works well, we build on it. If it does not work well, we change our way of building. I consider this a way of moving forward.

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4:30 p.m.


Guy Lauzon Conservative Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry, ON

Mr. Speaker, I must admit I do agree with the hon. member. When I was working in Sudbury, there was a great public servant working there, and that was myself. There were many others. I must admit I enjoyed my time in Sudbury very much.

I also worked in Ottawa here as a public servant, and in Cornwall. We have been recognized as having one of the best public service in the world. Our public servants are dedicated, hard working people. This is not about them. This is about maybe making life a little better for the public service, and that is my concern.

I am glad to hear that the government is prepared to do anything possible to that end. I am glad that the member opposite agrees that we should give the public servants the tools that they need to do a good job. One of the ways we can give them that tool, as the hon. member mentioned, is with Bill C-11.

That is a bill that is before committee right now. We on this side are making some constructive changes that are coming actually from public servants, not only retired public servants like myself but active public servants who are doing the job today.

They are saying unequivocally that we need an independent commissioner. The way Bill C-11 is drawn is flawed. I was just talking to another public servant before I came into the House this afternoon and I got exactly the same report, that it will never work unless we have an independent commissioner.

I am really happy to hear the member opposite. Hopefully she will encourage, and make her comments and feelings known to the President of the Treasury Board. The ultimate goal is to end up with the most perfect bill possible.

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4:35 p.m.


Pierre Poilievre Conservative Nepean—Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to broaden the context of our discussion to the overall matter of the public service and zero in on the comments the hon. member has made with respect to whistleblower legislation because I do not believe these issues can be discussed in isolation.

My understanding of Bill C-11, as it is currently written, is that the disclosure mechanism is not independent from the political leadership of the country. That is an essential problem with the bill. Furthermore, through order in council the cabinet can remove different branches of the government from the power of this legislation. That means that if the sponsorship scandal had occurred and this bill had been in place at that time, and the government had been interested in concealing information, it very easily could have removed any agency that was implicated from protection under the whistleblower legislation, thus removing the protections on public servants who wished to speak out against the corruption.

Those are two essential flaws that I see: the lack of independence and the fact that the cabinet can exempt certain bodies of government.

Due to the fact that we now have a minority government, and that the majority of members in this chamber and in the government operations committee are in the opposition, that is the majority support true whistleblower legislation, does the hon. member believe that we can use this coalition of opposition members to put forward the necessary amendments to strengthen this bill, give it teeth, and give it meaning to our public servants and taxpayers?

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4:35 p.m.


Guy Lauzon Conservative Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry, ON

Mr. Speaker, I agree with my colleague's assessment that Bill C-11 will not work as long as the disclosure is not independent. Right now the way the bill stands, the government could decide to remove whatever agency it wants from the whistleblower legislation on a whim, and that is not healthy.

I believe that a good bill can come out of the House that will actually serve what we are trying to do. It will actually allow a public servant to report wrongdoing and feel comfortable in so doing. Every member in the House has agreed at one time or another that our public servants are our most valued resource. The President of the Treasury Board said that in his speech, and everyone in the House agrees with that.

Here is the perfect opportunity to show that faith in our public servants and to amend this bill so that it will do exactly what it is designed to do, and that is to protect people who report wrongdoing.

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4:35 p.m.


Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I suppose relevance is something we could invoke every now and then since we are talking about whistleblowing under Bill C-8. With regard to Bill C-8, the member has already stated that the bill is to basically enact an order in council decision and it likely will receive the support of the House.

The member is a retired civil servant. I thought I would ask him about an issue or a matter that came up when we did Bill C-25, the modernization of the public service. It was with regard to the culture of the civil service, that there was a bias or a cynicism about change and whether or not the change was going to be accepted and acted upon.

The reaction from the witnesses seemed to sustain the fact, or at least the allegation, that the culture of cynicism was still in the public service, one reason being that the Public Service Modernization Act was the first piece of legislation in some 20 years. Would the member care to comment briefly on the culture within the Canadian civil service?

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4:40 p.m.


Guy Lauzon Conservative Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry, ON

Mr. Speaker, yes, there is a culture. For the last five years of my career as a manager, we were called agents of change. The member is correct in his assumption that it is difficult to change the culture in a huge organization such as the Public Service Commission.

That is why it is so critical that we get this legislation as perfect and flawless as possible. I am convinced, and the public servants are convinced, that if we give them something to work with, they are willing to change. However, they have been let down so many times that we have to show them some integrity and credibility. It is really critical that we get it right.

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4:40 p.m.


Benoît Sauvageau Bloc Repentigny, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-8, whose purpose is to make legislative corrections to ensure the implementation of the Public Service Human Resources Management Agency, which was created last December, if I am not mistaken. The main objective of Bill C-8 is to reconcile three acts, namely the Financial Administration Act, the School of Public Service Act and the Official Languages Act.

At the start, I will say that even though the Bloc Québécois is not entirely satisfied with certain aspects of Bill C-8, we will support the principle of it. I think that it is important to say this right from the beginning for those who are watching us, especially Treasury Board officials who must ask themselves the question. Now they know. They will be able to continue with their tasks or perform others.

That being said, the specifics that we would like to see in Bill C-8 will focus on what I will say now. For example, we read on page 3 of Bill C-8:

(b) section 6 is amended by adding the following after subsection (4):

(4.1) The Treasury Board may, subject to any terms and conditions that it considers appropriate, delegate to the President of the Public Service Human Resources Management Agency of Canada

(a) any of the powers or functions in relation to human resources management, official languages--

You will see that, for us, in this bill, everything that has do to with official languages deserves to be specified.

This deals with the Financial Administration Act. Concerning the Official Languages Act, it says:

  1. Section 47 of the Official Languages Act is replaced by the following:

  2. The President of the Public Service Human Resources Management Agency of Canada shall provide the Commissioner with any audit reports that are prepared pursuant to paragraph 46(2)(d).

Consequently, under clause 47, the president of the agency is replacing the president of Treasury Board, who, until now, was the one who had to report annually.

Before I go any further, I need to explain a bit about the Public Service Human Resources Management Agency of Canada. and how it will ensure modernization of everything the President of the Treasury Board has said, as well as application of the Official Languages Act.

It would be pretentious to claim to have been searching the Internet, but my assistant has done so to get some information on the agency referred to in this bill. I will read a few excerpts about the agency from Part II. I will comment on them as I go along. You will see that, even in a minority government, they do not suffer from humility. No humility for the Liberals.

The first raison d'être of the agency is set out in a nice little box as follows:

Our raison d'être is to modernize, and to foster continuing excellence in people management and leadership across the public service.

No problem with that, but the problem arises with the second quote.

Thus, the Agency will serve Canadians by striving for--

Hon. members have probably heard the expression “the bestest in the world ” in connection with our public service. In fact everything done in Canada is so described. We do nothing by halves. So, I have added a few words but the quote is officially:

--a workforce and a workplace second to none.

As you can see, there is no humility in this document, nor in this government. They will learn, slowly but surely, in the transition from majority to minority position, from a grand total of x members to x minus all the defeated candidates.

What we want is an efficient and effective public service, and one that is above all respected. I think that those working in our public service deserve better. I was joking about the public service being the bestest in the world, but the public servants in our respective ridings would never write like that. They have far too much respect for their work, and so do I.

I think that this is from the Treasury Board website, not the bill, but certain aspects might be corrected.

Later in the Treasury Board document we read:

Our strategic outcome is a modern, professional public service dedicated to the public interest and supporting ministers in democratic governance, representative of the Canadian public and serving Canadians with excellence in the official language of their choice, with employees effectively and ethically led in a high quality work environment respectful of their linguistic rights.

I will return to the official languages. With respect to ethics, some names have been overlooked, such as Guité and Tremblay, those who were implicated in the sponsorship scandal. Still that is what the Treasury Board Web site says about this agency.

Later on, in Part III, entitled Planning Overview, we read this:

While TBS continues to focus on compensation, labour relations, and pensions and benefits, the PSC focuses on staffing and the Canada School of Public Service (CSPS) focuses on learning and training services. As a result, the Agency works very closely with each of these partners—

Therefore they set up groups to implement the necessary action. The Treasury Board Secretariat was the agency that was supposed to ensure that everything was going well. This is now delegated to the agency. That is another thing that makes complicating accountability and responsibility in this government possible, but not for the first time. I am sure there was no malicious intent and that the president of Treasury Board at the time was not trying to dilute information by creating the agency. And the same is true of the foundations.

Later, on page 15 of the document, under the heading, “Achieve and preserve official language commitments...”

Following the restructuring of the Government on December 12, 2003, the Agency is responsible for directing and coordinating the official languages policies and programs for the 196 institutions subject to the Official Languages Act.

As a result, through its Official Languages Branch, the Agency will continue to oversee—

I will come back to that later. If the agency oversees the same way the Treasury Board Secretariat did, it will not continue to oversee very well.

—and foster the establishment of an environment that effectively supports each institution in the integration of official languages into the workplace—

This is how it should be in this country. It is important to point out that this is not a speech written by the Bloc Québécois. I am quoting from the Treasury Board Secretariat, under the heading “Public Service Human Resources Management Agency of Canada”. A little further, under the heading “A Representative and Accessible Public Service” the document says:

Progress towards employment equity and a more bilingual public service must continue in order for the government to meet its commitments to deliver effective quality services to Canadians and to develop a workplace respectful of diversity and linguistic duality.

The last two quotes are real gems. They should be included in the annals of the House. Indeed, we read the following on official languages:

On both fronts, considerable progress has been reported over the years. Achievements remain fragile or stagnant, however, and further improvements have to be made.

According to the Treasury Board Secretariat, “considerable progress has been reported”. The last quote is found under the heading “Key Priorities and Results for Canadians” and reads as follows:

The Agency will continue to strive for targeted improvements in employment equity—

This is also true for official languages.

What worries the Bloc Québécois and what worries me personally is when we read that the Public Service Human Resources Management Agency of Canada will continue to apply and take pride in the good results and progress achieved in official languages. At the same time, I made four complaints to the Treasury Board Secretariat and all four were deemed in order. These four complaints, which I submitted a year ago, are basically saying that the Treasury Board Secretariat is not complying with the Official Languages Act.

The complaints also say that the Treasury Board Secretariat is not accountable for or serious about its responsibility regarding the enforcement of the Official Languages Act in the various departments. The Treasury Board Secretariat is ignoring a number of regulations it put in place itself. Moreover, the Treasury Board Secretariat—the parliamentary secretary is listening and will certainly support what I am saying, otherwise she would contradict me during the period for questions and comments—has not delivered the accountability required under the Official Languages Act.

In one of the complaints I made, it was said, and I quote:

Regarding exclusion approval orders, if positions in the public service are designated bilingual, such positions or the person in those positions may be excluded from any language requirement, under certain exclusions or certain exclusion characteristics, including continuous service.

In the federal jargon, what is meant by exclusion as the result of a person being in continuous service? It is an order stating that anyone who, before April 6, 1966, had accumulated at least ten years of continuous service and who, since then, has been in continuous service, is excluded from language requirements. To meet such a requirement, and this is still in force, the person must have had 48 years of service in the public service as of April 2004. I bet you cannot find more than two or three of those, Mr. Speaker—and I am certain you are not one of them.

However, the Public Service Commission was monitoring the Official Languages Act provisions and the Treasury Board Secretariat was monitoring compliance with the Official Languages Act. The language rights of francophone communities have been ignored. I am not talking about the number of incomplete files, 2,521 in all—which is not much. According to the Treasury Board annual report, 2,521 persons hold a designated bilingual position in the public service. However we do not know if they comply with their hiring criteria, because their files are incomplete. Groupaction probably took care of their files. That is why they are incomplete.

Following that, I filed another complaint, which said that the Treasury Board is not properly carrying out its responsibilities as far as its supervisory obligations are concerned and which was also deemed in order.

Filling bilingual positions is quite another matter. I used to be our official languages critic, something I found both interesting and important. Therefore, I can tell the House that, since French-speaking Canadians account for close to 25% of the population, about 25% of the jobs are designated bilingual. I think that is quite normal. To fill a bilingual position—quite obviously—one needs to be bilingual. So far, so good.

Did you know, for instance, that over 60% of all jobs designated bilingual in the armed forces are held by unilingual people? That complaint was also deemed in order. I am not talking about 2% or 3%, but rather 60% of jobs designated bilingual being held by unilingual people. Throughout the public service, around 16% of jobs designated bilingual are held by unilingual people. I will not tell you what language they speak, I am going to let you guess.

I used to like to ask the previous President of the Treasury Board the following question, and I might put the same question to the current President of the Treasury Board: how many lawyers in the justice department are not really lawyers? How many income tax experts at the finance department are not really tax experts? None.

So why is it that unilingual people are hired to fill jobs designated bilingual as long as they undertake to taking language courses at some point in the future. That is still going on. Does the parliamentary secretary agree with me?

Why not hire social workers to fill lawyers' jobs suggesting they take the appropriate courses to become a lawyer at some point in the future? Why not hire mechanics to fill tax experts' jobs suggesting they take the appropriate courses at some point in the future? Positions are designated as such because they are important.

Why is what is important for a tax expert or a lawyer is not important for a francophone? I would really like someone to answer that some day.

Had the President of the Treasury Board given the agency, through Bill C-8, constraining powers, a real role in terms of accountability, perhaps the Official Languages Act could have started to be respected and enforced, after 35 years. But no, as I indicated earlier, quoting from the Internet site of the Treasury Board Secretariat, they will continue to be content with whatever progress is made.

Sixty per cent of designated bilingual positions in the Canadian Forces are held by unilingual individuals. Sixteen per cent of designated bilingual positions in the public service are held by unilingual individuals. Yet, the boasting is continuing. In making changes to legislation, attention ought to be paid to this sort of thing.

More specifically, in Bill C-8, special attention could have been paid to respecting the Official Languages Act. But no, instead the name of the President of the Treasury Board is replaced with that of the president of the agency, which will continue as before without changing a thing. They are even proud of doing nothing; they are proud when they receive complaints.

The complaints I have filed were not about not having been served in the language of my choice somewhere in Saskatoon. The complaints were against the Treasury Board Secretariat as a whole. I had complaints against DND as a whole. It is not about the priest from Bagotville, in the Lac-Saint-Jean region, who could not work in Moose Jaw, if I am not mistaken, because he was not allowed to speak French on a base that was supposed to be bilingual.

My complaints do not concern a single individual contravening the act in one place. They concern an entire government ignoring the Official Languages Act. At the same time, the Conservatives are telling us that the OLA is too constraining for unilingual individuals. That is the position of the Conservatives.

I cannot wait for the day when more francophones will fill designated bilingual positions in a department. Just try to find a unilingual English position filled by a francophone and you will see that he will have to change jobs quite rapidly. This is not the situation today.

The government will make the legislative reconciliation that must be made to Bill C-8, so this will apply, since it was created in 2000. Perhaps there are other improvements that could be made.

Before concluding, I would be remiss if I did not pay tribute to my colleague from Terrebonne—Blainville. I could have talked more about this, but, in this bill, we must refer specifically to everything that has to do with whistleblower legislation, with Bill C-25 concerning the modernization of the public service, which I did not do.

So, as I said, all this will enable my colleague from Terrebonne—Blainville to be heard on Bill C-451, which she introduced during previous Parliament and which deals with harassment in the workplace. I talked at length about official languages, but I can also talk about this. Harassment in the workplace affects one public servant out of five, according to a 2002 survey of 95,000 public servants.

This is why my colleague from Terrebonne—Blainville introduced a bill to protect victims of psychological and other types of harassment. First, the text defines psychological harassment and abuse of power and then it requires the federal public administration to provide public servants with a harassment-free workplace.

I believe that, if the government protects public servants from psychological harassment, if it allows public servants, through Bill C-11, to disclose wrongdoings in their department and their workplace, and if, on occasion, it complied with the Official Languages Act, Bill C-8 would modernize the public service and the government machinery in a positive way.

Message from the SenateGovernment Orders

5 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

I have the honour to inform the House that a message has been received from the Senate informing this House that the Senate has passed a bill to which the concurrence of this House is desired.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-8, an act to amend the Financial Administration Act, the Canada School of Public Service Act and the Official Languages Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

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5 p.m.


Roger Clavet Bloc Louis-Hébert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I admire the eloquence of my colleague from Repentigny, who did a good job defining the essence of the legislative initiative in Bill C-8. He raised negative points, which is understandable. The Bloc Québécois supports this legislative measure, but with hesitation, as my colleague indicated quite well.

I want to ask him a question, since he is an expert. He has devoted his life to promoting linguistic duality and respect for francophone communities, which the government seems to forget at times—be it the Commissioner of Official Languages or others. Does the member for Repentigny not find it a little ironic that the person responsible for this new agency, who is in a way the sponsor of all of this, in other words the President of the Treasury Board of Canada, is himself a unilingual anglophone? Should the person responsible for supervising the respect of linguistic duality and bilingual positions not, first and foremost, be himself bilingual? That is my question for my colleague from Repentigny.

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5 p.m.


Benoît Sauvageau Bloc Repentigny, QC

Mr. Speaker, let me reassure my hon. colleague from Louis-Hébert. I did devote part of my life to this cause, but I still have some strength left to go on.

On a more serious note, it is true that if we want to lead by example in Canada, members of the cabinet should be bilingual. The minister responsible for enforcing all or part of the Official Languages Act should set the example. I understand that the current President of the Treasury Board is working on that.

What I find rather amusing is precisely this responsibility the Official Languages Act. I may be mistaken, but I think that, pursuant to section 42 or 43 of the legislation, the Canadian heritage minister is responsible for implementing the Official Languages Act. Further down, the responsibility for enforcing the Official Languages Act within the public service is given to the President of the Treasury Board.

If we look at what the government is doing here, we see that a minister has been made responsible for the Official Languages Act, who is neither the Minister of Heritage or the President of the Treasury Board. In this case it is the hon. member for Ottawa—Vanier, the minister responsible for official languages. There is no reference to this title in the Official Languages Act, because the co-ordinating responsibilities of the minister responsible for official languages are not recognized. That role is considered instead to belong to the Minister of Canadian Heritage. So, in the House of Commons, a question to the heritage minister will not be answered by her but by another person.

So, who is responsible? Everyone and no one. Who is answerable? Everyone and no one. Why, in the report she tabled last week, did the Commissioner of Official Languages say that little progress has been made in the application of the Official Languages Act after 35 years? This is somewhat contrary to what we read at the Treasury Board Secretariat site. She is not celebrating the progress made, far from it, because everyone is responsible for a part of the Official Languages Act, but according to this government, no one is.

For the benefit of the member for Louis—Hébert, with his great interest in official language issues, I will point out that further along in that web site may be found the form required for all reports on the respect of official languages. Never, under any minister, has there been any follow-up on these reports. So here we have, in Bill C-8, a continuation of what we have been seeing for 35 years as far as the Official Languages Act is concerned, particularly within the Public Service.

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5:05 p.m.

Sudbury Ontario


Diane Marleau LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the President of the Treasury Board and Minister responsible for the Canadian Wheat Board

Mr. Speaker, listening from my seat, I find it somewhat strange to hear members of the Bloc Québécois profess such deep love for the protection of official language minority communities. It sends shivers down my spine. I am a francophone originally from northern Ontario. My mother and my grandparents were also born there. I am therefore in a position to talk about the great challenges of continuing to speaking French. The members of the Bloc Québécois did not help, and they are not about to be of any help. What they want is to split our country, and to tell my ancestors, who are also theirs, that they played no role in building this great country. That is too much for me.

I have a question however. One of the reasons for establishing the agency was because it was too difficult for the public service to hire very qualified and very capable individuals. The chair of the Public Service Commission has indicated that some 500 young people who graduated either this year or last year were hired, out of the 2,000 to 3,000 who applied. In many cases, it takes up to six months before they are offered a job.

I can add that, here in Canada, there is no shortage of young people who are learning both French and English, who are enrolled in immersion classes and who are very bilingual. I am confident that, if we can get the agency can up and running, we will finally be able to hire our very capable young people. If we take six months before sending them a job offer, they will take jobs elsewhere.

Do you think that, with the agency, we may see some change and some flexibility, and our young people will be able to find good jobs in the public service?

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5:05 p.m.


Benoît Sauvageau Bloc Repentigny, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am a little surprised by what the Parliamentary Secretary to the President of the Treasury Board is saying. I do not have any doubt about her interest in francophone communities, but you and I sat twice a week on the Standing Committee on Official Languages over the last five years, and she never showed up.

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5:05 p.m.


Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the electors of Burnaby—New Westminster for their support on June 28. I would also like to underline the good work of organizations in my riding, such as the Hyack Festival, the New Westminster and District Labour Council and the New Westminster Chamber of Commerce.

I welcome the opportunity to present my views and those of my New Democratic Party colleagues on Bill C-8, an act to amend the Financial Administration Act, the Canada School of Public Service Act and the Official Languages Act. I would like to provide some background on the bill.

In November 2003 the Public Service Modernization Act, Bill C-25, received royal assent. The main intent of the legislation was to modernize the human resources management in the public service by adding the concept of merit, implementing a more flexible staffing system, incorporating learning activities, and this may seem hard to believe given the current state of affairs, improving labour management relations. The NDP supported Bill C-25 in principle but in the end voted against it.

Overwhelmingly, workers in the trade union movement, including the Public Service Alliance of Canada, strongly opposed many aspects of Bill C-25. The government refused to take into consideration their concerns and defeated at committee stage a number of progressive amendments. These amendments mainly dealt with the security of workers.

In came the new Liberal regime and on December 12, 2003, the Liberal government established by decree, or order in council, the Public Service Human Resources Management Agency of Canada as well as its functions. The agency was placed within the Treasury Board portfolio.

Government contended that the agency was the next logical step for implementing the Public Service Modernization Act, but since the agency was created by order in council, government had to follow up with Bill C-8, which was tabled this month, to confirm by legislative means the decree of the Prime Minister. This is therefore a technical or mechanical bill, as some would call it, which does not modify the functions or the powers given to the agency but which clarifies the role of the agency in the system.

The government maintains that Bill C-8 will allow for better integration of activities relating to the management of human resources within the sphere of operation of the Treasury Board. The government also maintains that this bill will ensure greater visibility of the agency inside and outside public services.

The bill adds the position of president of the agency but says nothing about the terms and remuneration of the president. I hope we can clarify this with officials at the committee stage.

More important, Bill C-8 confirms a potential significant delegation of powers to the president of the agency. The Treasury Board is relegated to the role of coordinator of the activities of the Treasury Board Secretariat, the president of the agency and of the new office of the comptroller of Canada. This office was reinstated after being canned by the Mulroney Conservatives in the early 1990s.

Given the track record of the Treasury Board on human resources issues, this may be a good idea after all. Maybe labour-management relations would finally improve, but it is fair to say it would be difficult for them to be worse. Bill C-8 keeps the door open to Treasury Board involvement. This makes me wonder about the capacity of the Treasury Board to effectively follow up and coordinate what it is supposed to coordinate. Perhaps some in the government think it would be a good thing to combine a junior partner and a senior partner to effectively deal with human resources issues.

Perhaps as part of the study of the bill in committee we should file access to information requests, targeting existing surveys and reports on job satisfaction at the Treasury Board. That information, I believe, would prove to be very interesting.

The president of the agency is provided with lots of powers over human resources management and human resources issues, in fact, as many as the President of the Treasury Board wishes to transfer, including employment equity issues, ethics, and powers conferred under the Public Service Employment Act.

Given all that, would it not then be appropriate that government consult with Parliament before appointing the president of the agency? Why then not make the president of the agency an officer of Parliament? After all, this is supposed to be an independent agency. I would like to see an amendment to that effect in proposed subsection 3.1.

Once again, this is a technical bill. We are trying very sincerely to find valid reasons to support it.

However we must be absolutely certain, first, that the government is not building up unnecessary expenses. The underlying philosophy of Bill C-8, in its potential implicit and explicit costs, must be assessed or reassessed and scrutinized at committee stage.

We must be sure that this will not entail wasteful spending by the government.

Was there any prior consultation on this agency? None that I know of at least. There is no substantial background documentation. One must wonder whether we are making things up on the go.

Is it improvising first and trying to justify the decision afterward?

The onus is on the government to make and prove its case. How can we respect the credibility of the Liberal government on those issues when we all know its dismal record in human resources management. Certainly with the public sector strikes this fall, the fact that many of the contracts were delayed and negotiations left public sector workers without contracts up to a year and a half, the fact of a fall in real wages of public sector workers who have lost about 10% of their real wages over the past 10 years, and the fact that table 2, the one salary survey that was done, showed a wage gap of 20% between public sector workers employed by the Government of Canada and those in the other public and private sectors. All of those facts indicate that there is a serious issue around human resources management and the lack of respect with which the government treats public sector workers.

I have many other questions about Bill C-8. I would like to find out what it will really mean for us and better understand its consequences for the public service.

Is the government attempting to clean up the mess created by the multiple scandals and abuses of the political purse? Is the agency just a smokescreen or an effective tool for management, or maybe, as I mentioned, it is just an improvisation?

First, an agency was announced last December. Then the government created the evidence for its need. Why would the civil service be better off with this scheme? We need evidence. How will the agency affect other departments? We need evidence. How would this agency ensure a better service from and a better treatment of civil servants. We also need evidence.

As an hon. member already mentioned, the Treasury Board website provides an elaborate plan of action for this agency. On paper it looks fantastic. However, the real challenge will be to demonstrate that these changes will translate into positive and tangible results with respect to the way the government does business. That has not yet happened. It will take years after Bill C-8 is adopted to find out whether the outcome is good for the people of Canada.

We must think of the challenge in trying to hold the government accountable to all of this. Again, there is no guarantee that this will work. The government has shown that it has difficulty in many respects controlling its own departments. How can it control the proliferation of agencies and related outcomes? The more separate places that exist, the less transparency we will have and the more difficult it may become to have effective control.

We are concerned about the proliferation of agencies. The Auditor General herself has commented on the lack of control and on the lack of accountability mechanisms. From Genome Canada, $375 million were poured in for just a few dozen genomic research positions, to the Canada Foundation for Innovation and many others. These agencies are not under the same scrutiny. There is always the same pattern, a small overworked staff relying on outsiders, and none of that is subject to Treasury Board accountability and regulation.

We know the Treasury Board regulations themselves are in serious need of overhaul given the scandals during the election campaign, for example, the expenses for staff at Citizenship and Immigration who were put up in hotels here in Ottawa according to Treasury Board guidelines. It was a cost to taxpayers of more than $30,000.

I am not saying that these agencies do not do good work. I am sure that many competent and dynamic Canadian men and women work hard in them. Still, there is taxpayers' money involved, and these agencies do not really have the means for supervision and monitoring.

There is much talk about the all wonderful program activity architecture, or PAA, to regulate accountability and record it. The PAA went ahead with virtually no documentation, no policy backgrounder and no consultation, again making things up on the go. I would not be the least surprised that not all government departments and agencies have officially submitted their PAA with the signature of the relevant minister.

I have another major concern. How will all of this affect the venerable Public Service Commission? We heard, during the introduction of Bill C-8, the President of the Treasury Board state that the Public Service Commission of Canada was moving away from a managerial role to an auditing role.

Effectively, through Bill C-11, the whistleblowing legislation that is currently before committee, the Treasury Board is giving the public commission a new mandate which is to deal with wrongdoing and whistleblowing in the public service.

The government decided not to create an independent body when in the case of whistleblowing there is indeed a compelling case in favour of creating an independent body to oversee the application of this important legislation. Responding to more calls for an independent whistleblowing agency, the Treasury Board president stated at committee that we should be working to modernize existing rules and procedures rather than add a new body to the public service. That begs the following question: Why is the government then creating a human resources agency when it clearly did not provide the rock solid evidence that was needed? Why is the government refusing to create an independent oversight agency for whistleblowing when there is compelling and overwhelming evidence in favour of such an agency?

I have more. During its presentation to the committee on Bill C-11, the Treasury Board admitted that by giving the mandate to deal with whistleblowing to the Public Service Commission, Bill C-11 would create a conflict of interest situation since the Public Service Commission, a body that holds executive powers over the public service, such as hiring staff, would also have to answer complaints of wrongdoings.

Does this confirm that the government is bent on stripping the Public Service Commission from its hiring powers? We already know that the HR agency proposed by Bill C-8 could be the recipient of many of those powers. Is the President of the Treasury Board paving the way for legitimizing the new HR agency that Bill C-8 would entrench into legislation?

It is strange that, while this government has so far been opposed to the creation of an independent agency to monitor whistleblowing, the same government has not succeeded in demonstrating that the agency created by Bill C-8 is necessary.

Canadians know full well that only an independent agency, operating outside the government, can effectively guarantee that public servants who blow the whistle on wrongdoings will truly be protected.

The government has said no. But this is simply a question of common sense. Unless, of course, someone is trying to protect the minister from the employees and not the other way around.

In fact, there could be an even better solution for whistleblowing supervision. Why not give such a mandate to the Auditor General? It would be a natural extension of the mandate of the Auditor General, not the job of the Public Service Commission or a human resources commission. This would mean that we may not even need to spend money on another independent agency since independence is the middle name for the Auditor General's office. It would be a win-win for our rights as Canadian citizens and a win-win for civil servants and taxpayers.

The non-partisan, venerable and effective Public Service Commission is losing influence due to the proliferation of agencies. Why are we tampering and improvising from one patchwork to the next and weakening government institutions?

We owe it to the taxpayers, the civil servants and the citizens of Canada to question the rationale for the creation of the human resources agency and to ask for evidence that its creation will actually address problems and not create them, and relate all arguments to the basic question: Why another agency if the government has difficulty controlling existing agencies and departments?

The case for the human resources agency proposed by the Prime Minister in December 2003, and which Bill C-8 seeks to legitimize, has yet to be made. I am looking forward to having all of these questions answered at committee.

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5:20 p.m.


Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member covered a fair bit of ground but not very much on Bill C-8. I want to make some comments about Bill C-25, the modernization of the public service.

Having been a member of the government operations and estimates committee since it was created some two and a half years ago and having served as its chair and currently as its vice-chair, I can say that the process we have been going through, starting with Bill C-25, has been a very complicated one because it has been 20 years since the public service renewal process was looked at.

The experts who have looked at this and the studies that were done over a two year period prior to the creation of the legislation, brought forward a bill that was not even the full strategy for the renewal of the public service. It went as far as the experts felt we could go in one swoop. Bill C-25 included within it two embedded bills. It was so complicated that very few people had the patience to go through the enormous binder of legislation.

The member seemed to indicate that the PSAC had made a number of recommendations that were rejected. The fact is that the PSAC recommendations were not rejected. They were not presented to the committee until the day that it was going through clause by clause. It was never proposed by any member of the committee to amend the legislation. Therefore the committee did not reject PSAC's proposals. I think I was the only member who actually proposed some changes, some having to do with civil servants seeking public office, some having to do with oaths of office and other matters like that.

I would simply say that this is a technical bill that would give effect to an order in council decision that has been made. There is no new money and no changes in responsibilities but it starts to clarify the position with regard to who is management and who is representing the employees. The problem is that the Public Service Commission still has two hats. It still is an employer and it still has representation in employee responsibilities, and that will not be resolved until we go through the next wave of public service renewal, which may be some five years down the road.

I raise for the member's comment and consideration that our job is not over. This is a work in progress. It has taken us a number of years already to bring us this far and there are many areas to go. Whistleblowing is another bill but it certainly is part of it in terms of addressing the culture issues that I raised earlier with another member. I am pretty sure the committee will address the concerns after we hear the witnesses.

However the government operations and estimates committee already received the bill in the last Parliament, had full witnesses and was prepared to deal with the bill then. Unfortunately, the House rose for the election and now we are dealing with it again.

However I want to assure the member that there is an appetite within the committee, not only to properly address the issues related to the whistleblowing issue, but to continue to work and to invest in improving management-labour relations as well as to boast about the excellent public service that Canada does have.

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5:25 p.m.


Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would certainly hope that the committee will have broad input and consultations, and that our public sector workers who must be valued will be consulted fully on this bill as it comes forward for improvement and for changes that can be made.

The point to underline and underscore is the record of the past couple of years with this government and its public sector workers. We have seen an appalling lack of respect shown to public sector workers, issues that have not been dealt with, contracts that have expired, and with no meaningful negotiations undertaken.

We have seen the fall in real wages and the use of temporary workers. We have seen the wage gap grow and certainly the one area which was table two, where a salary survey was undertaken, showed a 20% wage gap.

With all of that background, we then entered into these negotiations a few weeks ago, where the government did not negotiate in good faith and there was no respect shown to public sector workers. This is the appalling legacy of the past 10 years.

Public sector workers give enormously to their country and work very hard on behalf of all Canadians. They have not had their issue of wages addressed. They have not had the wage gaps addressed. Hopefully, that will start to change if we allow for the types of broad consultation with public sector workers on bills such as this.

It is not a good legacy of which to be proud. I certainly hope that we will see a shift with this minority Parliament that will allow public sector workers to be fully valued as they should be.

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5:30 p.m.


David McGuinty Liberal Ottawa South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased this afternoon to speak to Bill C-8. Before doing so however, I would like to sincerely thank the people of Ottawa South for electing me as their member of Parliament in the House of Commons. I am most grateful to them for placing their confidence in me. To them I make a single and solitary pledge. I will work as hard as I can to serve the needs of the people of Ottawa South in order to ensure that our community continues to flourish.

I will work as hard as I can to meet the needs of the people of Ottawa South in order to ensure that our community continues to flourish

I am particularly pleased to speak to this bill today because of the deep respect in which I hold the public service. I have the great privilege of serving as a member of Parliament representing thousands of Canadians who dedicate their careers to improving public administration within the Government of Canada. As a former senior officer with the Canadian public service, I believe these changes are timely.

Indeed, as mentioned by the President of the Treasury Board, although this bill proposes relatively modest additions to the Financial Administration Act, its significance and direct effects, as well as its long term consequences, are vitally important to all public servants and as a result to all Canadians.

On this note I would like to congratulate the ongoing work of the President of the Treasury Board for his attempts to modernize our public management systems. I think that the results of the ongoing negotiations and discussions with Canada's unions involved in public administration is a testimony to his patience and his commitment.

For the first time since Confederation, the human resources management function within the public service of Canada has been raised to the level of an agency, and the bill before us today gives this proposal a legislative basis. Time has come for the federal public service to take this crucial step.

Such a bill issues a clear message about the government's priorities. Not only does it underscore the important role that human resources management plays in the creation of a modern public service that is better able to meet the needs of Canadians, but it also acknowledges and places even more value on the contributions made and the pride felt by the thousands of public servants, professionals, managers and union representatives who work within it.

But above all, beyond the symbolic nature of the message, this bill is a vehicle of change because it will make it easier to implement important priorities in the area of human resources management.

The number of challenges in this area are many, but they revolve around a common issue or a common theme, implementing concrete and sustainable changes in human resources management, which in tangible terms will mean better results for Canadians.

In fact, for several years now, the government has been actively committed to implementing major and long-awaited changes to the public service human resources management system. The system is burdensome, rigid and complex, and its obsolete processes are still regulated by legislation, which, in some cases, stretches back decades.

To address the issue, the government has made a commitment and taken measures that have led to the drafting and recent passing of the Public Service Modernization Act, which received royal assent on November 7, 2003. That legislation is an historical step, since it is the first of a series of major changes to the human resources management and hiring processes of the public service in more than 35 years.

As the House knows, this bill provides very solid foundations. However, as it is enabling and not prescriptive, it gives rise to possibilities that we must act on and develop. We must, therefore, forge ahead and build in close partnership with the departments and agencies, their staff, the human resources community, and the unions a new human resources management system. In other words, the most essential and difficult task remains, to ensure that the vision expressed in the Public Service Modernization Act becomes reality and that it leads to results for Canadians.

To succeed, the agency must be able to demonstrate new leadership that will be a determining factor in the successful application of this act, leadership that is unifying and that facilitates and supports the work of the departments and agencies. That, through a collective effort, will be required in order to implement the act while ensuring that the highest standards of ethics, transparency and accountability are met.

This brings me to my central point. By giving the agency a legislative basis, the bill presented today will give it the increased visibility, legitimacy and stability that only a legal framework can confer.

It is a legislative basis that can only facilitate the leadership needed to allow the agency to an implement and provide long-term support for the effective application of the Public Service Modernization Act.

It is an act that, as we will recall, is one of the pillars upon which rests the government's action plan to improve human resources management and which also includes a large number of non-legislative initiatives, such as the reform of the classification system and the significant improvement of the human resources management planning and accountability systems across the public service.

Furthermore, the increased visibility legitimacy and stability conferred by this bill will also be instrumental in supporting this new leadership needed by the agency to facilitate the implementation and long-term support of all its policies, programs and services.

This work includes promoting values and ethics in the public service, which is another key element of the agency's plans. Indeed, in its effort to ensure that the public service is guided by the highest standard of values and ethics, the agency began in June 2003 to actively support departments and agencies in their efforts to integrate the new values and ethics code for the public service into the day to day functioning of their respective organizations.

The agency was also given the responsibility of supporting the government in the writing and ultimately in the implementation of the public servants disclosure protection bill, our so-called whistleblowing act, which will be discussed in Parliament in the coming months.

The agency is actively committed to integrating and strengthening all of the important leadership and development programs that were recently transferred to its responsibility from the Public Service Commission. The resulting increase in coherence and consistency will contribute to the development of competent and talented leaders, who will be guided and assessed by means of the highest possible accountability standards.

Finally, the agency is very focused on improving human resources management policies and strengthening reporting systems. It continues to make targeted improvements in the areas of employment equity and the promotion of linguistic duality.

Therefore, as one can see, the agency is working on a large number of files of the utmost importance, files that not only affect the public administration in general, but that also directly reflect the concerns of Canadians with regard to the functioning of their public service.

Across the public service, the agency is working to modernize, improve and integrate, into a coherent whole, all the functions conferred upon it. It seeks to improve not only culture, values, behaviours and practices, but also the tools that are essential to a modern public service that is capable of meeting the expectations of all Canadians and that is worthy of their trust and respect.

In conclusion, the agency's reason for being is rooted in change and the continued support for excellence in human resources management. Therefore, giving the agency a legislative basis can only support it and help it in its daily activities, and ultimately in the success of its mission.

Ukraine ElectionsRoutine Proceedings

5:40 p.m.


Borys Wrzesnewskyj Liberal Etobicoke Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Having held consultations with all the parties, if you were to seek it, I believe that you would find unanimous consent for the following motion. I move:

That, in the opinion of this House, the government should impress upon the Government of Ukraine to ensure a fully transparent election process by: (a) providing free access for Ukrainian and international election observers, multiparty representation on all election commissions, unimpeded access by all parties and candidates to the media, freedom of candidates and media from intimidation and/or harassment, and a transparent process for complaint and appeals through electoral commissions and the courts; (b) guaranteeing election monitors from the Office of the Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, other participating States of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, Ukrainian political parties, candidates' representatives, non-governmental organizations, and other private institutions and organizations, both foreign and domestic; and (c) providing unobstructed access to all aspects of the election process for the Ukrainian presidential election of October 31, 2004 and a potential second round election on November 21, 2004.

I would therefore ask for the unanimous consent of the House to adopt Motion No. 156 standing in my name.

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5:40 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

Does the hon. member have the unanimous consent of the House to move the motion?

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5:40 p.m.

Some hon. members


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5:40 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?