Madam Speaker, it is a great privilege to speak today on behalf of the amended Bill C-11, the proposed Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act.
I would like to add my voice to those of my other hon. colleagues, and commend the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates for its excellent work on Bill C-11. We could almost talk about a collective will to achieve something that may not be perfect but that has been greatly improved over the original version, which had been under consideration for a number of years. This collective will was also determined to have this Parliament adopt this legislation as soon as possible.
I do not want to spend a lot of time walking through the history of this bill, but I do want to remind hon. members that indeed it has a long history, one that goes back to the Sub-Committee on Whistleblowing of the government operations and estimates committee in 2003.
Bill C-11 is an evolution of a previous disclosure bill that received much input and debate, but which did not progress through Parliament due to the election call in the spring of 2004. And the bill that is before us today is an amended and, I would add, improved version of the Bill C-11 we saw at first reading. In other words, the disclosure bill has been the subject of intense scrutiny and consideration in the House and in committee. Involving all sides of the House and dozens of witnesses, debate over what Canada's disclosure legislation should look like was long, open and fruitful. The bill we have arrived at is the product of that debate.
I also want to underline to hon. members that if and when the bill is passed, our involvement in this disclosure legislation will not end. Hon. members will hear more over the coming months and years about various elements of the bill and will have a role in how many of them play out. We will still have the opportunity and the responsibility to keep tabs on how the legislation is being implemented. Let me explain.
As other hon. members have noted, the proposed public servant disclosure protection act requires the Treasury Board to establish, in consultation with employee unions and bargaining agents, a code of conduct for the public sector. The importance of this code cannot be underestimated as a serious breach of the code is considered a wrongdoing under the act. Once the code has been developed, it will be tabled in each House at least 30 days before it comes into force. Parliamentarians will have the opportunity to review the code of conduct before it comes into force.
In addition, if the bill passes, a public sector integrity commissioner will need to be selected and appointed. I must say that we had a thorough discussion on that very subject. We had many representations to that effect and all parties agreed to submit the amendment to the House.
The appointment is approved by the House and the Senate and thus parliamentarians would have a participatory role in the process of selecting the right candidate for this very important position.
As an officer of Parliament reporting to Parliament, the proposed new public sector integrity commissioner will report directly to Parliament, that is, to hon. members of the House as well as the other chamber. The commissioner will be accountable not to a minister, but to us in this House.
The commissioner would report annually to the House on the disclosure investigations undertaken during the year and on any related issues of concern. The annual report would be reviewed in committee. In addition, the proposed public sector integrity commissioner would be free to make special reports to this and the other chamber, at any time, on any subject related to his or her mandate.
Unfortunately, I will not have enough time to get into some very important clauses of Bill C-11. Just the same, I would like to call to the attention of members clause 8, which defines wrongdoings. The standing committee took a lot of time and heard many witnesses to develop the most accurate definition possible of what could represent a wrongdoing.
Obviously, it does not cover all government activities. But I think that we kept the definition short to prevent diluting the legislation per se, had we gone into too many details.
Hon. members should take a look at clause 20 as well. I personally met with representatives of the Public Service Alliance of Canada on many occasions on this topic, to ensure that this legislation, Bill C-11, protects whistleblowers. There have been problems in the past. We consulted other jurisdictions and other countries. What we have now may not be perfect, but we can take the next five years to examine, as other members said, how the legislation has worked and make changes as required. What is really important is that those of our civil servants who do disclose wrongdoings have the full protection of the law.
And what about the independence of the commissioner who will be reporting directly to Parliament? Once again, this was a request from our civil servants, which we understood well. I was pleased to see the government amendment in this respect, which will be part of the consideration of the bill by this House.
Finally, the bill also requires a review of the proposed act five years after its implementation. The proposed legislation specifies that an independent review of the act, its administration and its operation must be undertaken and the review presented to Parliament. This will allow Parliament to assess how well the legislation has worked, whether there have been unintended consequences and whether any changes need to be made.
I raise these issues to impress upon hon. members that Bill C-11 has evolved through the hard work, input and expertise of many individuals and organizations over the past few years. The result, in my view, is that the amended bill has met the government's goal of being the best bill it can be.
At the same time, if the bill passes—and I sincerely hope it does—we in this House will still have an important role, to ensure that it is implemented well and that it lives up to its potential.
We will have the responsibility for exercising an ongoing thoughtful and responsive role towards the commissioner.
We will also have the ongoing responsibility to ensure that this legislation supports federal public sector employees, today and into the future, to play their important role in supporting ministers, under law, and to serve the public interest.