House of Commons Hansard #178 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was rcmp.


Presence in GalleryOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear!

Presence in GalleryOral Questions

3:05 p.m.


The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

Pursuant to order made earlier today, I now give the floor to the official opposition House leader.

Member for Sturgeon River—ParklandOral Questions

3:05 p.m.


Candice Bergen Conservative Portage—Lisgar, MB

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to recognize and express deep gratitude to someone who is a remarkable leader, member of Parliament, mentor, and friend. The member for Sturgeon River—Parkland has tirelessly led our party and Her Majesty's loyal opposition for the past 18 months.

She did it with dedication, passion, energy, and professionalism.

All the while, she has consistently shown her sharp intelligence, keen sense of humour, and her genuine kindness and nurture.

When the member for Sturgeon River—Parkland took over the role as leader of the Conservative Party, it was as interim leader, but never once did she treat this position as a placeholder or merely a fill in. From the outset, she gave everything to the role, and in doing so has led and unified a caucus and party through what many would acknowledge could have been a very difficult time. Her capable and true servant leadership style has led our party to a place of strength, effectiveness, and unity.

You know you are a great interim leader when people are fighting at policy conventions to change all of the rules so that you can run for permanent leader. I think that says it all.

Under her leadership, the Conservatives have grown strong. Our party is rock-solid, our fundraising is going really well, our caucus is united, and we are an effective opposition. We are a force for the Liberals to reckon with, and that is due in large part to this woman's leadership.

This actually is not the first time our interim leader has shown and excelled in her role. Whatever she has taken on as an MP or a minister, she has given 110% and delivered impressive results, some of which I am going to speak about momentarily.

What few people know is, like many women, the member for Sturgeon River—Parkland, known to most as Rona, never thought she would run for public office. In fact, she never even considered it, which is typical of many women.

After resisting many calls for her to throw her hat in the political ring, she was finally convinced by Stephen Harper to take the political plunge and compete for the nomination to be the Conservative candidate in Edmonton—Spruce Grove, a nomination race which had the unique distinction of having nine candidates, making it one of the largest nomination races in the history of the Conservative Party of Canada.

Against all odds, and in spite of being told that she did not have a chance, she persevered and in 2004 won the nomination against seven men and one woman. She is our example of a strong, competitive “no quotas needed” Conservative woman. Since then, the member for Sturgeon River—Parkland has gone on to win her seat in five straight federal elections.

Prior to being elected interim leader of the Conservative Party, the member served in Stephen Harper's cabinet as minister of the environment, intergovernmental affairs, western economic diversification, labour, public works and government services Canada, status of women, and health. Throughout her career as a cabinet minister, she has left a lasting legacy of public service and results. When she was appointed to cabinet in 2006, she had the unique distinction of becoming the youngest woman in Canadian history to be appointed to cabinet.

As minister of state for the status of women, she was instrumental in leading the charge as our Conservative government, in the face of opposition from many sides, fought to ensure that first nations women who live on reserves have the same property rights during a divorce as women who do not live on reserves.

During 2011 she continued that work for women who need a voice by being the champion at the UN for the adoption of a resolution declaring an annual International Day of the Girl. One hundred and twenty-two member states were persuaded by her, and as a result of her efforts, every October 11, we celebrate this important day internationally.

As minister of health, she played a leading role in the worldwide response to the Ebola crisis. During this very challenging time, she led the charge to ensure that not only Canadians were protected, but that countries most affected by the outbreak were receiving the necessary support to treat Ebola right there on the ground.

In addition to working to make sure that mobile treatment units were made available in various devastated regions, she moved heaven and earth so that the Canadian-made experimental Ebola vaccine could move quickly through clinical trials. The Canadian vaccine has proven to be safe and effective and will undoubtedly save many lives.

Most recently, as a member of the official opposition, the member for Sturgeon River—Parkland has fought tirelessly to advance the rights of victims. Whether it was her diligent commitment to helping Yazidi girls find refuge in Canada or her strong record in advancing legislation to defend the rights of victims, including Wynn's Law, and most recently, successfully passing her private member's bill, more commonly known as the JUST Act, our interim leader has always had a heart to help those who are less fortunate. She is someone who cares deeply about justice and mercy, and her work on so many files in this regard is a testament to her undying dedication to justice being served, but served in a compassionate way, especially for victims, who are too often forgotten.

While the member for Sturgeon River—Parkland's achievements in political life are numerous and known to many, there are certain things that many people do not know about her. A little known fact is that her chief of staff, Garry Keller, and I actually ran against her in an election. Let me explain. In 2004, Garry ran against her in that nomination race, the one where she beat seven men. Garry was one of those men she beat. I tried to run against her for interim leader. Needless to say, Garry and I both lost.

The reason I raise this is not just to highlight the fact that the member for Sturgeon River—Parkland is a tremendous campaigner and an inspirational leader. Those are well-known facts. I raise this to bear witness to the tremendous character of this amazing woman. Her willingness to trust even one-time adversaries to then become some of her closest advisers is a testament to her uncanny ability to see the best in people and her capacity to rise above and beyond the cut and thrust of politics to do what is right and what is for the greater good in each and every situation.

Here, though, are some fun facts about our interim leader. She speaks fluent Portuguese. She loves to hike in the mountains and does so quite often with her good friend Laureen Harper, and just last year, she almost threw up on U2's Bono, but that is a story for another day.

Our interim leader's dedication and love for politics are nothing compared to her love for her family. I think if we were to ask her why she is able to be so successful in life, she would tell us that it is due to the constant love, support, and influence of those who matter most to her.

As a child growing up, around the kitchen table her family loved to talk about current events and happenings all over the world. It was through these conversations that she developed a love and appreciation for important issues, and a passion to solve problems and to do the right thing.

Ironically enough, the member for Sturgeon River—Parkland quite dislikes partisan fights. In fact, I have to say that there have been a couple of occasions, just before she was going to rise in question period to hammer the Prime Minister with a hard-hitting question, that he probably will not answer, when she will look over to one of us and say, “Quick, say something to make me mad so I'll look a little more angry.” I think all of us in this House have seen that she really is not especially partisan and that she would rather try to help and solve problems in a collegial way.

The love of her life and soon-to-be husband, J.P., will attest to the member's incredible devotion to her family. At this time, and on behalf of our entire caucus and party, I want to thank J.P. for his incredible support of her through this amazing, but I am sure somewhat exhausting, adventure. I know that J.P. has been Rona's rock: constant, encouraging, and so present through good times and challenging times. I know we all want to thank him for his sacrifice and willingness to share her with our Conservative family.

I also know that she is very much looking forward to having a bit more time to spend with J.P. and her stepchildren, whom she loves so much and is always bragging about: Makena, Garrison, and Shanese.

To her dear parents, Jim and Colleen Chapchuk, thank you for having raised such a remarkable woman. You have so much to be proud of.

To her brothers, James and Morley, I hear that you do not always agree on politics, so your sister got good practice in defending her position, and I am sure winning arguments, with common-sense conservative policies. Thanks for giving her the chance to practice being a strong woman in a political world often dominated by men. I am sure the Prime Minister is not so grateful after what she has put him through in the last 18 months, but on this side, we all are.

Finally, to Rona, my dear friend, thank you so much for your trust and confidence in asking me to be your House leader. Working with you has been one of the best experiences in my time here in Ottawa. Thank you for your example to me of being this amazing blend of both intellect and knowledge coupled with heart, soul, and compassion. Your confidence and strong leadership has been a true inspiration not only to me but to a whole generation of young women striving to make their mark in the world.

On behalf of our Conservative caucus and all members of the Conservative Party of Canada, thank you. You have not only helped our party remain united during a very long leadership race, but you have made sure that our party is stronger than ever.

As you prepare to pass on the baton to our new leader, who will be elected in less than two weeks, my friend, you can be immensely proud of what you have done.

The hon. member for Sturgeon River—Parkland, our interim leader, will be greatly missed as the leader of Her Majesty's loyal opposition. However, you will always remain close to our hearts, no matter what road you take.

We love you, Rona.

Member for Sturgeon River—ParklandOral Questions

3:20 p.m.

Papineau Québec


Justin Trudeau LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, it is a great privilege for me to rise in the House today to express my thanks to a woman who has the respect and admiration of all members of Parliament.

She is someone who for the past year and a half has not merely filled the role of political leader but has truly owned it and made it her own and has dedicated herself fully to one of our democracy's most demanding jobs. I am speaking, of course, of the leader of Her Majesty's official opposition, and interim Conservative Party leader, the hon. member for Sturgeon River—Parkland.

In just 11 days, members of the Conservative Party of Canada will elect a new leader, and the current opposition leader's term will come to an end. Regardless of how she decides to continue serving Canadians, her contributions in this House will stand the test of time. Her contributions are a reflection of her skills and a reminder to all that politicians work hard and can rise above the fray for the good of Canadians.

As a great champion of women and girls, the opposition leader, in her role as Minister of Status of Women, contributed to Canada's efforts in the United Nations to create International Day of the Girl. It is thanks to her hard work that we celebrate this day every year in October.

As an experienced minister, she led by example, serving Canadians elegantly and tenaciously in a number of portfolios, including environment, intergovernmental affairs, labour, public works, status of women, and health.

Serving as an interim leader is a tough job that the Leader of the Opposition has embraced with the confidence and a commitment to service that impresses everyone who has the privilege of working with her, for her, and opposite her.

Throughout it all, she has remained true to her own values, something we saw earlier this year when she introduced a private member's bill that, once passed, will require federal judges to undergo comprehensive training in sexual assault law so that survivors will feel the full support of the law at the time they need it most.

The hon. member and I obviously disagree on a good many things, but no one can doubt that she cares deeply about this country and has always been willing to work hard to make things better for her constituents and for all Canadians. In fact, last year, as part of Maclean's Parliamentarian of the Year awards, members of this House voted to declare her the hardest-working member of Parliament, a great honour indeed, and the one, above all others, that, guaranteed, everyone in this House really wants to win.

The Leader of the Opposition also has a tremendous sense of humour. Her April Fool's gags are always funnier than mine. Her bull-riding jokes are definitely funnier than mine.

The thing that probably impressed me the most about the Leader of the Opposition was her determination to speak from the heart. Whether saying a few words following the sudden death of our colleague, Jim Hillyer, or talking about the forest fires that devastated her home province of Alberta, the Leader of the Opposition showed everyone, both in the House and outside the House, the power of sincerity in expressing one's feelings. It is a very Canadian approach, full of goodness and authenticity, just like the Leader of the Opposition.

As we learned this morning, the hon. member for Sturgeon River—Parkland will not only be leaving her position as leader of the official opposition, she will be resigning her seat and leaving federal politics. I hope the leader understands how keenly she will be missed. I hope she knows that thanks to the leadership she has shown here, she is leaving this House a much better place, a place where the things that matter so much to her, the interests of women and girls, Albertans, and all Canadians, will continue to be supported and upheld.

We will be forever grateful for the heart, humour, and hard work she shared with us these past 12 years and wish her and her family all the very best in the years to come.

Thank you for all you have done, Rona. You will be missed by all of us.

Member for Sturgeon River—ParklandOral Questions

3:25 p.m.


Thomas Mulcair NDP Outremont, QC

Mr. Speaker, today we pay tribute to the extraordinary member for Sturgeon River—Parkland and interim leader of the Conservative Party for her service as a member of Parliament, as a minister, and as leader of the official opposition and thank her for the honour, integrity, and passion she has brought to this House over the years.

We learned last night that not only will the member be handing over the reins to a new leader, she will also be stepping down as MP. That news was met with an outpouring of recognition and tremendous gratitude, and rightly so. She will be missed as an MP and as a great leader of the Conservative Party—my personal favourite, for the record.

In less than two weeks, a new Conservative leader will be chosen. We do not know who that will be, but we do know it will not be Kevin O'Leary. I guess for that, at least, we can be thankful.

I thought today I would tell a story that demonstrates why the member for Sturgeon River—Parkland is so widely respected. This House is often filled with passionate debate and disagreement, as it should be. As opposition leaders of often diametrically opposed parties, we frequently have very different perspectives on issues, but sometimes we can find common ground and bypass party differences for the greater good. In March, the leader of the official opposition and I, and ultimately all members of this House, were able to come together and do just that.

A series of shocking decisions showed us once again that our legal system does an abysmal job of addressing cases of sexual assault and protecting the victims. The Halifax ruling made it clear that appropriate sexual assault training for judges was not only necessary, but had become urgent.

The Criminal Code stipulates that no consent is obtained where the complainant is incapable of consenting to the activity. This ruling went completely against the Criminal Code and it became clear that it was necessary to act quickly on this.

The member had introduced legislation, Bill C-337, that would require judges undergo comprehensive training in sexual assault law. I was very impressed with the proposed bill. It is an important step forward for survivors of sexual assault who are struggling in a judicial system that far too often fails them.

It was clear to me that the legislation should receive unanimous support, not only due to the urgency of the problem but also because at that moment in particular, it was critically important that every member of the House come together and say “we believe survivors”.

We reached out to the member and her office and offered to endorse the bill and fast-track it to committee by proposing unanimous consent. That unanimous consent was forthcoming.

It is rare for all leaders of political parties to support each other's legislation and even more rare for leaders to propose unanimous consent for each other's legislation. However, when it comes to how our judicial system handles cases of sexual assault, I am so proud to say that members of the House unanimously agreed to put survivors first.

Quite sincerely, I thank the leader of the official opposition for the tremendous work she did for this bill. I know that this goes back to the hon. member's university days when she took part in a project that looked into how sexual assault complainants were treated in the courts. I know how important this is to her and I am extremely honoured that the House passed the bill yesterday.

I thank the hon. member for being so open to working in a collaborative and non-partisan way. That is what made possible this important accomplishment. I will always be very proud of this moment and I hope she will be as well. I can safely say that the leadership that the hon. member for Sturgeon River—Parkland showed in the House certainly earned her the respect of the entire NDP caucus.

In closing, Catherine and I wish my colleague, the leader of the official opposition, her family and her wonderful spouse, J.P., many years of peace and happiness together.

Member for Sturgeon River—ParklandOral Questions

3:30 p.m.


Xavier Barsalou-Duval Bloc Pierre-Boucher—Les Patriotes—Verchères, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Bloc Québécois hounded the Liberal government to do something about the Rona file. It did nothing, and we lost a vital Quebec business. Now the House is losing another important Rona. The interim leader of the Conservative Party, who, I think, has all the qualities to be an excellent leader, has decided to leave politics.

The House of Commons is losing a great parliamentarian. Obviously, we very rarely see eye to eye, but her class, her energy, and her convictions have always earned our admiration. The Leader of the Opposition is a remarkable woman.

With her mischievous sense of humour, she often managed to make the Conservative Party go viral on social media. Her very funny mannequin challenge comes to mind, along with the time she put Stornaway on Airbnb as an April fool's gag. She managed to give the Conservative Party a new dynamic image that was long overdue.

The Conservative Party is the party of oil, employers, and the moral right-wing base that would have voted for Trump, but it seems more likeable with the member for Sturgeon River—Parkland at the helm. She is like a breath of fresh air. Given her party's agenda, the fact that she managed to accomplish all the things she did is quite a feat. The interim leader of the Conservative Party gave a patina of unity to a party that has been, since time immemorial, in the throes of a leadership race involving some 30 candidates. We have lost count.

She was a beacon of party unity after the last election and has served the party very well in that regard. I would also be remiss if I failed to mention her desire to advance the cause of women, with her bill and her tough stand on gender equality. We have seen her applaud when the Bloc Québécois has asked questions about gender equality. Yes, that does happen. That too is to her credit.

A great parliamentarian is leaving us today, and I do not think that the Conservative Party will be able to find a better leader this weekend than the one it has had to date. Well done, Leader of the Opposition.

Member for Sturgeon River—ParklandOral Questions

3:35 p.m.


Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to pay tribute to my colleague and friend.

I met the member for Sturgeon River—Parkland 11 years ago.

I was not in politics yet. I was executive director of the Sierra Club Canada when I first sat down at a table opposite the current interim leader of the Conservative Party. She was then-minister of environment. It is a tribute to her personal characteristics of fairness, kindness and just plain likable that I could not help liking her as we discussed the Kyoto protocol.

I have searched my memory banks and I cannot remember a single time in the last 11 years when I have not thought well of her as a person, even if we disagreed. We share many things, including a love of dogs and hiking in the wilderness, and we also shared much when she was minister of health. I want to pause for that period and thank her once again.

She played a key role in ensuring the quick passage of Bill C-442 on Lyme disease. We are now working together on the national framework that will be implemented under that bill.

However, it took the minister of health deciding that a private member's bill from an opposition party leader would be okay to support. To have it pass unanimously in the House of Commons and the Senate is not about all the independent decision-making of all the MPs. Honestly, if the minister of health had not supported that bill, it would have died right there. I want to thank her once again for supporting remedies for the people across this country suffering from Lyme disease.

I also want to pay personal tribute to the fact that under her leadership and in the government of Stephen Harper, the strongest legislation ever, taking big pharma to task, Vanessa's Law, was passed. That is solid and it is a tribute I want to pay publicly.

Last, as another woman in politics, leading a teeny-weeny party over here in the corner, everything she has ever done as interim leader of the official opposition has demonstrated that women can do everything just as well as a man.

I saw her earlier today, standing at the podium in the foyer. I do not know how she stands in those shoes. I do not understand how anyone can walk in those shoes. They are phenomenal high heels. They are very gorgeous. It reminded me so much of what was often said of Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire, that she danced just as well as he did but backwards and in high heels.

Hats off to the leader of the official opposition. We will miss you.

Member for Sturgeon River—ParklandOral Questions

3:35 p.m.


The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

Colleagues, before I call on the leader of the official opposition, allow me to add my words of congratulations on her many accomplishments, on her professionalism, and on her devotion to her constituents and to Canada.

The hon. leader of the official opposition, the hon. member for Sturgeon River—Parkland

Member for Sturgeon River—ParklandOral Questions

3:40 p.m.

Sturgeon River—Parkland Alberta


Rona Ambrose ConservativeLeader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, thank you for those kind words.

I want to thank my hon. colleagues on both sides of the House for their kind and generous tributes. It is rare to get compliments in the House, which makes my colleagues' words today all the more meaningful.

I really want to thank all my colleagues in the House, from all sides of the House, for their thoughtful and generous tributes. It really has been the privilege of my life to serve as the leader of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition and interim leader of the Conservative Party of Canada.

Before I get to thank yous, I wanted to make a point.

As we all know, for this place to function, we also need a good opposition, no matter what party. A great Canadian prime minister, the Right Hon. John Diefenbaker, said once, “If Parliament is to be preserved as a living institution His Majesty’s” or as we know now “Her”, “Loyal Opposition must fearlessly perform its functions.”

When it properly discharges them the preservation of our freedom is assured....It must be vigilant against oppression and unjust invasions by the Cabinet of the rights of the people....It finds fault; it suggests amendments; it asks questions and elicits information; it arouses, educates and molds public opinion by voice and vote. It must scrutinize every action by the government and in doing so prevents the short-cuts through democratic procedure that governments like to make.

I hope I have in some small part done my job as Leader of the Opposition.

I am overwhelmed by the kind comments and good wishes from my colleagues. However, for members who are new in the House, if you are wondering how long it takes, or how long they have to be here until people say nice things about you, you actually do not have to wait; you just have to quit.

I really want to thank my good friend and our House leader for her heartfelt words she conveyed on behalf of our caucus and the members of our party. It is truly humbling. Of course I want to thank my caucus, because those members put their trust in me to lead the party for this time. I have loved every minute of it. In large part, that is because I get to work with this amazing group of people every single day, and I am so proud of what we have accomplished together.

I know people say that being the leader of a caucus is a challenge. I am sure the Prime Minister and the leader of the NDP know what that feels like. I hope one day the leader of the Green Party will know what that feels like too.

People say that leading a caucus of politicians is like herding cats, but at least it is better than dealing with the media, which is like giving a cat a bath.

I sincerely want to thank the Prime Minister for his generous words, especially after I just hammered him in question period. In all seriousness, we have had a very respectful working relationship. I want to thank him for supporting my private member's bill and, with all sincerity, I want to wish him the best. To Sophie and the kids, and his whole family, all the best. It must be said that never again will two competitors be so well matched up for the battle of best hair.

I want to thank the leader of the NDP for his words, for his friendship and in particular, I want to thank him, and he mentioned it, for his unequivocal support for my private member's bill. I also need to tell him he is on some very good western street cred. He and my spouse JP have now become really good friends, which always happens when anyone meets JP. He found out that the leader of the NDP wore cowboy boots all the time, and not just any cowboy boots. He wears the kind of cowboy boots that real cowboys wear. I want to wish him and Catherine, and the whole family all the best.

I also thank very much my friend from the Green Party and my colleagues from the Bloc for their great words. They are truly humbling.

I want to thank my parents who are here. I am so fortunate to have them in my life. They are amazing people who taught us the important things like respect, compassion and integrity, and I want to thank them. I want to thank both my brothers who are here. All these years, we are still good friends, even though one of them votes NDP. Who knows, Mr. Speaker, maybe they both do. I do not know.

I am also thankful to have my in-laws here and so many friends. I am so incredibly thankful to all of them for being supportive, loving, and extremely patient through these years.

I want to thank my constituents and my volunteers back home who have worked with me over the years on many campaigns and have been especially understanding over the last 18 months while I travelled across the country as leader.

Of course, to all my staff over the years in all the offices—in the riding, here on the Hill, at the Conservative Party headquarters, and the leader's office—I thank them for their commitment, their passion, and their professionalism. We have had a lot of fun.

My staff, even those who have left the Hill, have always referred to themselves affectionately as “Team Ambrose” and the great little group that I travel with now on tour calls themselves the “Rontourage”. They have made work a lot of fun, and truly my success is their success.

I also want to take a moment to give a special thanks to my friend and mentor the Right Hon. Stephen Harper and his wife, Laureen. He gave me his trust and his friendship, and for that I am forever grateful. I thank the two of them because they have just been wonderful.

Last and most important, of course, I want to thank J.P. and the kids because they make my life so great. When they came along, they embraced this crazy life with so much enthusiasm, and I thank them for that. In fact, it is great because it reminded me about how important the little things in life are.

It reminds me of a story. When Garrison was only six, he asked me what I did today. At the time, I was the minister of health, so I proceeded to tell him about the important meetings I had that day, the important people I met, the important decisions I made, the press conference I had, and the millions of dollars I gave away to some stakeholder, and he said “Huh, what else did you do?” That says it all.

Like many members, I have seen that the exposure to this life has really benefited them, and they have thrived on it and loved it. Makena, when she was only eight, did a speech about the International Day of the Girl in front of 1,200 students, to talk about the importance of girls' education.

Garrison was only eight when he actually talked about the importance of science for kids, and this was in front of 2,000 people before he handed the microphone over to astronaut Chris Hadfield. They have done quite well in this life.

One of our favourite memories is when I had to work on a weekend and they had some friends here in Ottawa. We came to Parliament so I could do my job, and a security guard gave them an all-access pass—I hope that is okay—and they literally had the run of the House and played hide and seek. I am thankful that my life has afforded us such fun and lasting memories.

Last, I want to thank J.P., who has been a rock for me since the day we met. He embraced this life and in so doing, he made it a partnership from day one, and we have had a blast together. He always says never would he have imagined, as a former bull riding champion, that he would be hosting tea parties at Stornoway, but he did. He brought his down-to-earth love of life and love of people to everything he did.

It was not just tea parties. He handed out candy to the kids on Halloween at Stornoway, but it was not really fair, because he dressed up as a cowboy. He brought beer pong tournaments for the interns to Stornoway, karaoke for the press gallery parties, great bands, and even a mechanical bull for our caucus party. The truth is that everybody loves J.P. In fact, one of my caucus colleagues actually said this to me: “Rona, the truth is that if J.P. ran against you in a nomination, I'm not sure who I'd vote for”.

Words cannot express our love and thanks to our friends and family for making this such an unforgettable part of our lives. We are excited to start a new chapter of our lives. We will not be far away, and I am still here until June.

I want to say what an honour it has been to serve in this great place. Thank you. I have enjoyed every minute of it.

Member for Sturgeon River—ParklandOral Questions

3:50 p.m.


The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

I must say that I am actually less concerned about this talk of all-access passes than I am about the topic of hair coming up so often.

Best wishes to you, Rona, and to your family in the future. All the best.

The House resumed consideration of the motion in relation to the amendments made by the Senate to Bill C-7, An Act to amend the Public Service Labour Relations Act, the Public Service Labour Relations and Employment Board Act and other Acts and to provide for certain other measures.

Public Service Labour Relations ActGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.


The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

There are two and a half minutes remaining in questions and comments following the speech of the hon. member for Parry Sound—Muskoka.

Questions and comments. The hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons.

Public Service Labour Relations ActGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba


Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, at the tail end of the member's comments just before question period, we were talking about the importance of our RCMP. I think sometimes it is worthwhile to look for where we can find consensus within legislation, and I think there is a consensus from all members of this House recognizing the fantastic work that our RCMP officers do day in and day out for all Canadians. We applaud them on those efforts.

It seems to me that this issue has had a great deal of debate already. Whether it was in second reading or in committee, there has been a great deal of discussion on the issue, and there were even discussions prior to the last national election, quite frankly.

Would the member not agree that it is a healthy thing to see this ultimately go back to the Senate?

Public Service Labour Relations ActGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.


Tony Clement Conservative Parry Sound—Muskoka, ON

Madam Speaker, I believe I prefaced my remarks by saying that we, as a caucus, are not opposed to the Supreme Court of Canada decision. It is a fact that there will be collective bargaining for the RCMP and, of course, there will be a right to organize for RCMP officers.

The issue before us is the amendments that were proposed by the Senate that have been adopted by the Liberal government. Our point on this side of the House is very clear. While we accept certain of the amendments and accept the position of the government on certain aspects of it, a crystal clear point of demarcation is on the right to a secret ballot. On that, we cannot have any kind of compromise. We think it is fundamental to the expression of will by RCMP officers, just as it is in democracy as a whole.

Public Service Labour Relations ActGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.


Nicola Di Iorio Liberal Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel, QC

Madam Speaker, as a member of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, I am pleased to have this opportunity to speak in support of the government's proposed response to the amendments to Bill C-7.

I will be sharing my time with the member for Madawaska—Restigouche.

Our proposed response to the amendments is in line with our stated position. In this response, we demonstrate our support for the dedicated and proud members of Canada's national police service. Who could be more deserving of such support than the dedicated and proud members of Canada's national police service who protect Canadians on so many fronts?

Members of the RCMP come to work every day with the goal of serving Canada and protecting Canadians. They are the people who protect the Governor General, the Prime Minister and other ministers of the crown, visiting royalty and dignitaries, and diplomatic missions. They are the people who participate in international policing efforts, who safeguard the integrity of our borders, and provide counterterrorism and domestic security. They are the people who enforce our federal laws against commercial crime, counterfeiting, drug trafficking, and organized crime. They are the people who provide policing services under contract to eight provinces, the three territories, and more than 150 municipalities.

This bill, with amendments, helps support those who protect us, and these men and women who are recognized as a symbol of Canada around the world deserve our respect.

In addition, over the past few years, the RCMP has taken action to promote a respectful and healthy workplace. For example, a new code of conduct was implemented that specifically identifies harassment as a contravention of the code. Harassment in the workplace is an issue the Government of Canada takes very seriously. Discrimination based on gender or sexual orientation, as well as bullying and harassment, is simply unacceptable.

What is more, in February 2016, the Minister of Public Safety asked the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission to undertake a comprehensive review of the RCMP's policies and procedures on workplace harassment, and to evaluate the implementation of the recommendations the commission made in 2013.

In addition, in July 2016, the Minister of Public Safety announced the appointment of Sheila Fraser as a special adviser. Her role has been to provide advice and recommendations to the minister regarding the application of various policies and processes by the RCMP after the filing of legal proceedings against the organization in four specific cases. The recommendations by Ms. Fraser and the commission will be carefully reviewed, and will inform further work on improving the workplace of the RCMP. I would like to thank Ms. Fraser and Ian McPhail for their work, as well as the many individuals who agreed to be interviewed and who provided information that led to the findings and recommendations.

I should also mention that the RCMP has launched the informal conflict management program and a five-year mental health strategy for all employees.

The RCMP has made great strides with the initiatives, programs, and policies it has implemented. These steps are important not only to the RCMP but ultimately to Canadians who rely on them for integrity and effective policing. Our proposed response to the amendments increases the scope of what can be discussed and potentially included in a collective agreement to include issues such as harassment.

Let me turn to the specifics of the government's response to these amendments. As I just stated, our government accepts the amendment to remove the restrictions on what may be included in collective agreements and arbitral awards that are specific to the RCMP. This amendment ensures that the employer and any future RCMP member bargaining agent can engage in meaningful discussions in good faith on topics of importance to RCMP members and reservists. This amendment increases the scope of the issues that could be discussed at the bargaining table, issues that now include transfers and appraisals, and matters commonly associated with harassment, and general aspects of workplace wellness, such as the promotion of a respectful workplace and early conflict resolution.

It is in support of our national police service that we also accept, with some modifications, the amendment to include a management rights clause as part of the new labour relations regime for RCMP members and reservists. We have the utmost respect for the commissioner's authority to manage the RCMP and to ensure the operational integrity of the police service.

What is at stake here is the safety and security of Canadians. Keeping Canadians safe is a serious responsibility, and our government takes this responsibility seriously. We propose a more targeted management rights clause to focus on the authorities that the RCMP commissioner needs to ensure effective police operations. We do this because we also value the rights of the RCMP members and reservists, the dedicated men and women who risk their lives every day to keep Canadians safe.

With these two measures alone, I am confident that the motion before us today addresses the key concerns with the bill. We must preserve the restrictions on what can be negotiated that replicate those that have applied to the rest of the federal public service for over 40 years. We must also maintain the current mandate of the Public Service Labour Relations and Employment Board. Expanding this mandate to include all matters pertaining to terms and conditions of employment would result in two different grievance processes that might lead to conflicting decisions.

Finally, the government cannot proceed with the amendment requiring a secret ballot vote to certify a bargaining agent to represent RCMP members and reservists. The secret ballot amendment is contrary to Bill C-4, an act to amend the Canada Labour Code, the Parliamentary Employment and Staff Relations Act, the Public Service Labour Relations Act and the Income Tax Act.

Bill C-4, which was introduced in the House of Commons on January 28, 2016, seeks to repeal legislation adopted in 2013 that sought to undermine unions' organizing efforts. Bill C-4 puts the discretion of certification with the Public Service Labour Relations and Employment Board. Whether there will be a secret ballot or a card check, the board will make sure the members' interests are reflected in the choice made.

To conclude, as we celebrate Canada's 150 years, let us not forget one of Canada's most venerable police services, which is why our government urges all members to proudly support the proposed response to the amendments to Bill C-7.

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4:05 p.m.


Erin Weir NDP Regina—Lewvan, SK

Madam Speaker, I would like to ask the member across the way about the government's use of time allocation on this bill.

The use of time allocation suggests that the government perceives some urgency in passing its response to these amendments. However, the Senate provided its amendments in June of last year. The government waited 11 months to bring its response to the Senate amendments to the House and is now using time allocation to limit debate in this House to only a few days.

If this is such an urgent issue, why did the government sit on it for 11 months? If it is not an urgent issue, why is the government imposing time allocation now?

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4:05 p.m.


Nicola Di Iorio Liberal Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel, QC

Madam Speaker, time allocation was explained by the government House leader. I simply reiterate the response that she provided.

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4:05 p.m.


Jim Eglinski Conservative Yellowhead, AB

Madam Speaker, I listened intently to the member's speech and I realize that this whole thing came about because of a Supreme Court decision, but the one part that bothers me extensively, and I have spoken on it in the House before, is the secret ballot.

Let us say the member across from us had to vote along with his whole caucus on whether they wanted to remove the Prime Minister for some reason. Hypothetically, as I hope they understand, they have to remove their boss. Would the member like to do it with a private secret vote, or would he like to do it standing up in front of the Prime Minister so he would know who his allies were and who the people against him were?

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4:05 p.m.


Nicola Di Iorio Liberal Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel, QC

Madam Speaker, I state very clearly that I will not answer the member's question as it is so extremely hypothetical.

If I may, I will answer the underlying assumption about secret ballots, which I think is a very fair question and one that should be addressed. I have been a labour law professor for 35 years, and it is certainly an issue that I address in the books that I write and in the classes that I teach. I will even say that what my personal views might be are not necessarily what I am exposing right here, but I have to say one thing. It is that I believe the concept we have of our labour laws was conceived in the 19th century, and the workplace is so dramatically different that the similarities no longer exist.

What I regret is that in 2013 the government of the time did not undertake a fundamental review of all the basic concepts of our labour legislation.

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4:05 p.m.

Vancouver Quadra B.C.


Joyce Murray LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the President of the Treasury Board

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel for his words and for his work on the parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security. We are aware, and certainly a labour law professor will be aware, of all of the initiatives that have come forward since 2014 to address workplace harassment in the RCMP.

Why does the member believe that, in his own words, meaningful discussion and good faith on issues of workplace wellness and harassment will improve the labour regime in collective bargaining for RCMP members?

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4:10 p.m.


Nicola Di Iorio Liberal Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel, QC

Madam Speaker, the concept that we have of labour relations is one in which we have one certified agent negotiating with the employer on behalf of all the members. The certified agent gets instructions from his or her members, who provide him or her with information. Therefore, there are at the bargaining table the two entities that are best informed on what happens in the workplace and are in the best possible position to craft the most adequate solutions.

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4:10 p.m.


René Arseneault Liberal Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

Madam Speaker, I am delighted to have the opportunity to participate in the debate on the motion presenting the government's proposed response to Bill C-7.

This bill takes a historic step in labour relations for the RCMP and in Canada. If the bill passes, RCMP members and reservists will for the first time have the same right to collective bargaining as other Canadians. RCMP members have a long tradition of exceptional dedication to their country. We just celebrated the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge and it is fitting that we point out that many valiant RCMP officers fought in that battle.

In fact, during the First World War, the Canadian government initially refused to send RCMP members overseas. However, a good number of them did not accept this decision. They decided to leave the North West Mounted Police in order to join the Canadian Expeditionary Force. During the Battle of Vimy Ridge, these members fought with the Canadian Armed Forces and many of them served with distinction.

A century later, RCMP members are just as courageous. Whether fighting drug trafficking on the ground or dealing with organized crime in the trenches, they are on the front line of public safety and we must ensure that they are working in a safe environment.

As far as harassment is concerned, I can assure my colleagues that the government is taking this issue very seriously. The government and the RCMP are determined to create a workplace free from harassment. We want to ensure that there are solid processes in place to deal with allegations effectively and safely.

I want to thank Ms. Fraser and the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP for their work on the reports on harassment in the RCMP that were released this week. I also want to thank the courageous people who agreed to be interviewed for these reports. It is important that we all support the work of RCMP members and that we take all the appropriate measures to help them exercise their right to collective bargaining, which brings us to Bill C-7.

The Government of Canada is proposing this bill in response to an important ruling issued by the Supreme Court of Canada in January 2015. In that ruling, the Supreme Court found that the provisions that exclude members of the RCMP from the application of the Public Service Labour Staff Relations Act were unconstitutional because they prevented members from deciding on their own, like all other Canadians, whether they wanted to be represented by a bargaining agent.

I want to thank the Supreme Court of Canada for rendering that important decision, which has given us the opportunity to modernize the labour relations regime for RCMP members and reservists.

Bill C-7 gives members of the RCMP the freedom to choose, if they so desire, to unionize and bargain collectively through that union to make their needs known to their employer. It is the same freedom of choice enjoyed by all other police forces in Canada, which I think is important to point out.

The bill sets out to protect the rights of RCMP members while protecting Canadians and keeping them safe. The bill has been subjected to rigorous scrutiny by experts, stakeholders, and Senate and House of Commons committees, and we acted on their recommendations by making changes very early on in the process to things like how work-related injuries are handled.

In its response, the government accepted some of the amendments proposed by the Senate, amended some, and rejected others. Among other things, the government agreed to strike the RCMP-specific restrictions on bargaining and arbitral awards from Bill C-7 and to adopt a more targeted management rights clause.

These amendments will enable the employer and any future bargaining agent for RCMP members to hold good-faith discussions about issues that matter to RCMP members and reservists. This approach will preserve the commissioner's authority to manage the RCMP and ensure the operational integrity of the police service and the broader accountability of the RCMP for the safety of Canadians.

Certain limitations regarding issues that can be included in collective agreements and arbitral awards have been maintained. They are in line with existing provisions in the Public Service Labour Relations Act that apply to the rest of the federal public service.

The government is also rejecting the requirement regarding secret ballot voting to elect the bargaining agent who will represent RCMP members and reservists.

It is important to point out that Bill C-4 does not deny the RCMP the opportunity to hold this vote by secret ballot. All it does is allow the Public Service Labour Relations and Employment Board to decide what is best based on the circumstances, either a secret ballot or a card check procedure.

In addition, if the bill does pass, the chair of the Public Service Labour Relations and Employment Board must take into account the need to have at least two board members with knowledge of police organizations when making appointments.

Nor does the government want to expand the mandate of the Public Service Labour Relations and Employment Board to have it hear grievances on a broader range of issues relating to working conditions. This would be inconsistent with how the Public Service Labour Relations Act is applied to the rest of the public service and would create an overlap of appeal and grievance procedures that are established under the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Act.

Thanks to the government's proposed response, we have maintained the best bill possible because it takes into account countless hours of debate and healthy discussions. Accordingly, we must not delay any further.

As currently worded, the Public Service Labour Relations Act does not fully take into account the concerns and interests of RCMP members or their operational reality.

That is why we must move forward with Bill C-7 and implement a labour relations regime that provides RCMP members and reservists the freedom to choose to be represented by a bargaining agent and that takes into account the specific needs of a national police force.

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4:15 p.m.


Martin Shields Conservative Bow River, AB

Madam Speaker, a member who spoke previously and the member said that labour law has changed significantly since 1900, but we are perhaps in some archaic times. One of the things the Liberals had proposed for the House was electronic voting, rather than standing to vote. They were preferring to see electronic voting, even in our offices. That seems counter to what they are proposing under this legislation. Instead of standing up and voting, they are proposing for us to vote electronically, which would be very invisible, compared to card-holding voting.

I wonder what the member's response would be. His party had proposed something significantly different with electronic voting, while the previous speaker from his party was saying we need to get updated. It seems a little different.

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4:20 p.m.


René Arseneault Liberal Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

Madam Speaker, I thank my honourable colleague for his question. I know that the issue of a mandatory secret ballot seems to be important to the official opposition.

However, after hearing from many witnesses and taking the time to reflect on everything that we read and heard, after analyzing the Supreme Court of Canada decision and the Senate's recommendations, and after hearing from the main party involved, the RCMP, which is not calling exclusively for a secret ballot, the government is rejecting this amendment or proposal because it runs counter to Bill C-4, which would restore fair labour relations.

On the contrary, we believe that the Public Service Labour Relations and Employment Board must decide, on a case-by-case basis, whether a vote or a card check is the most appropriate and fair method in the certification process. There is no reason to treat the RCMP differently in that regard.

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4:20 p.m.


Brigitte Sansoucy NDP Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech.

I certainly do not have the legal knowledge that he does, however, what really struck me with respect to Bill C-7 was the report that the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP released on May 15 concerning workplace harassment in the RCMP.

According to the report, the RCMP does not have an appropriate appeals policy. Unlike public service employees, who have the right to appeal a decision on a harassment complaint in accordance with the procedure established in their collective agreement, RCMP members still do not have access to an impartial and independent appeal body.

The motion being studied would reject a Senate amendment making all grievances subject to the Public Service Labour Relations Act rather than the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Act.

Does the member disagree with the commission's findings?