Mr. Speaker, first and foremost, I want to sincerely thank the members of the Nanaimo detachment of the RCMP for the work they do every day in our community to keep us safe. There are 151 sworn members of the RCMP who form the ranks in Nanaimo. They join over 18,000 members from across the country. It is important to remember when we are talking about the bill that it does not just affect 151 people in my riding. It does not just affect 18,000 officers across the country. It affects families, spouses, grandparents, children, their classmates, and our entire community.
I am going to take a moment to say how proud I am of the work that the RCMP members do in Nanaimo. They have a fantastic bike patrol unit. They are really the eyes and ears on the ground in our community. They work municipal traffic. They have a criminal intelligence unit and a K-9 dog unit. They work hard on victim services. When we do homelessness counts in our community, they know every citizen who is living rough. They know where they are. They keep track of them. They are very good people. They are part of the fabric of our community. They host open houses to show the public what is happening behind the scenes. They fundraise for victim services. They proudly attend community events in our riding, such as the marine festival parade, and they ensure that roads remain safe during Ladysmith's Christmas light-up festival.
With that backdrop of our community, collective bargaining is about respect. It is about fostering respect for workers and their rights, creating a safe working environment, and rewarding workers for their dedication and growth. It allows employees to have a voice and enables employers to listen. The cornerstone of collective bargaining is respect. It is that simple; it is respect.
Collective bargaining is a right that is enjoyed by a vast majority of federal workers, and those rights generally allow workers to be part of the conversation about staffing levels, deployment and relocation, and sexual harassment, except for the RCMP.
Janelle Canning-Lue and her husband recently wrote to me about Bill C-7. They are both serving members of the RCMP, and they have collectively served in 12 posts in four divisions. They say that they view Bill C-7 as a slap in the face. She says that instead of empowering them, it legislates the takeaway of fundamental rights of negotiation in the areas of officer safety and working conditions. She is not wrong to feel that way. The negotiation of officer safety is a right that every other police association in the country is granted. So much for respect.
The RCMP members and the NDP support and recognize that meaningful collective bargaining should extend well beyond the issue of pay and benefits alone. There must be a mechanism in the bill to support improved workplace safety, and to finding a resolution to the unresolved issue of sexual harassment complaints by members of the RCMP. The extent of sexual harassment problems in the force has been extensively documented, and has been widely covered in the media. Just yesterday, a senior member of RCMP management was charged with sexual harassment. This followed a class-action lawsuit of 400 RCMP members on sexual harassment in the force. How especially troubling and appalling it is that this was explicitly excluded from the bill. It is a great failure.
Rural officers in particular have concerns around the unresolved issues with respect to workplace safety. I think of the terrible tragedies in Mayerthorpe and Moncton, where there was terrible loss of life of RCMP members, and there are remaining issues as to the extent to which they were protected. These men and women stand up for us and we should stand up for them.
Another failure of the bill is around uniforms. The prevention of bargaining with management about the selection, function, maintenance, and replacement of uniform pieces does not make sense. RCMP members are using this equipment daily. The bill will restrict them from using their front-line knowledge about the safest and most efficient pieces of equipment. That kind of inside knowledge could be invaluable and could save time, money, and most importantly lives.
Second, employee transfers should not be removed from the bargaining process. Transfers should be a part of the conversation that takes into account workers' input to ensure they are being fairly administered.
A transfer can be a life-changing event for officers, their families, and our communities. In Canada, we have many remote areas with very high costs of living. We have very isolated communities as well. Some of these communities have a real lack of access to basic necessities, like affordable, safe child care. Therefore, members need to be involved in those decisions. They need to have that be a matter for collective bargaining.
Corporal Clover Johns in Nanaimo wrote to me saying that the removal of the restrictions on transfers and equipment would not hamper RCMP operations, but in fact would likely improve them, allowing more harmonious problem-solving, strong employer-employee relations, and higher member morale. Working together to solve problems creates strong employer-employee relations and higher member morale. That is respect, and that is what collective bargaining should look like.
The motto of the RCMP is Maintien Le Droit, or Maintain the Rights. Bill C-7 would provide less rights for members of the RCMP than other police.
Unfortunately, the government has failed to adopt the amendments that the NDP put forward at committee. These were reasonable amendments, such as allowing workplace safety and sexual harassment concerns to become matters for collective bargaining and arbitration between RCMP members and management. We should hear those concerns, and we should act upon them. Enabling meaningful collective bargaining will not only benefit the members and their institution, but it will benefit all Canadians.
The government's bill excludes everything from collective bargaining, except pay and benefits. I expressed great concern about this during the debate before second reading. Yet, I voted in favour at that stage with the optimism that these amendments could be made at committee.
I heard most witnesses at committee express great concern about what was left out of this collective bargaining agreement. The government failed to expand collective bargaining by agreeing to the amendments that the NDP proposed at committee. In our view, this means the bill fails to live up to the court's direction. Now the government has just voted to shut down debate on this important bill.
The government could have chosen to make a bad bill better. It could have done that at committee, but closing down debate today is the final process failure. Shutting down debate does not help meet the court deadline. Shutting down debate just reinforces the failure of process on this. The government has already failed to meet the court ruling, really, because it failed to write legislation that would give RCMP members access to true collective bargaining.
Today, I will vote in favour of the report stage amendments proposed by the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands. They do not go as far as the amendments that the NDP proposed at committee, but they are our last chance to repair this flawed bill, given the government's refusal to truly extend the right to collective bargaining to RCMP members.
If the amendments are not approved today by the government and by the House, I will vote against the bill.
Finally, Corporal Clover Johns from Nanaimo reminds me that members of the House have what RCMP members do not. We hold the power to listen and to voice their concerns when they were not afforded an opportunity to so. We have the power to enact just laws that enhance the national police force, to treat its members fairly, and advance public safety in Canada.
We should do that today, and we should guarantee members of the police in Canada equitable, open, and harmonious labour practices.