As the House knows, the Conservatives have raised concerns on this issue in the House arguing that the bill needs a royal recommendation. The government contends that the repeal of the Public Service Equitable Compensation Act, or PSECA for short, requires a royal recommendation because delegating jurisdiction to the Canadian Human Rights Commission and Tribunal to oversee public sector pay equity complaints is “essentially a fundamentally new and altered purpose for those organizations”. We take exception to this argument on two grounds.
First, this repeal is a restoration of the status quo. The Canadian Human Rights Commission and Tribunal have been charged with these precise responsibilities for nearly a quarter century. This repeal hardly constitutes a fundamentally new and altered purpose for those organizations. They have the expertise and resources necessary to continue to undertake these responsibilities in the short term.
Second, the PSECA has not yet come into force, meaning that Bill C-471's repeal of that legislation would have limited impact on the ability of either the Public Service Labour Relations Board or the Canadian Human Rights Commission to carry out procedures relating to pay equity complaints.
The government further argues that Bill C-471 represents a cost increase to the treasury but nowhere in the 2009 budget does the government indicate that the new PSECA represents a cost savings. It is difficult to evaluate cost implications when the government provided no such information in its own policy change.
Bill C-471 calls on the Government of Canada to ensure that all statutory oversight agencies are put in place by a specific date. The creation of statutory oversight agencies simply constitutes the creation of a framework under which a proper, proactive federal pay equity system could function. Expenditure of public moneys and liability of the Crown need not be considered in the creation of such a timeline. The framework costs nothing.
I am reminded of two rulings made in 2006 that dealt with a royal recommendation in which you, Mr. Speaker, ruled on both occasions that there was no need for a royal recommendation.
Members will remember your decision, Mr. Speaker, on Paul Martin's private member's bill, Bill C-292 regarding the Kelowna accord, where you explained:
...the Kelowna accord tabled in the House sheds light on the plan of action, but it is not clear whether the accord could be implemented through an appropriation act, through amendments to existing acts, or through the establishment of new acts. From my reading, implementation would appear to require various legislative proposals.
Also, Mr. Speaker, in your ruling dated September 27, 2006, regarding private member's Bill C-288 on the Kyoto protocol, which had been brought forward by my hon. colleague from Honoré-Mercier, you indicated:
Rather, the bill seeks the approval of Parliament for the government to implement the protocol. If such approval is given, then the government would decide on the measures it wished to take. This might involve an appropriation bill or another bill proposing specific spending, either of which would require a royal recommendation.
It would be the responsibility of the government to enact these changes in a manner that does not put a new charge on the treasury. We cannot prejudge how exactly this framework would be established. Once the government establishes the pay equity framework proposed in this bill, cost implications would become factors to consider. As this bill does not actually enact such changes, a royal recommendation is unnecessary.