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  • Her favourite word is rcmp.

Liberal MP for Vancouver Quadra (B.C.)

Won her last election, in 2015, with 59% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Public Service June 15th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, this week, more than 250,000 federal public servants at work in every province and territory, celebrate national public service week.

Public service is a noble calling, a way to make a difference in the lives of millions of Canadians and people all over the world.

We are privileged here in Canada to be able to count on a public service whose diversity, professionalism, and dedication are the envy of governments around the world. Thanks to the continued hard work of public servants, we all benefit from high-quality government programs and services.

Whether it's supporting those displaced by fires in Fort McMurray or helping Syrian refugees settle into new communities, public servants rise to the occasion and often go far above and beyond.

The government has an ambitious, progressive agenda, for our fully engaged, capable public service.

I salute the good work of Canada's public servants and encourage each member of this House to do the same.

Ethics June 14th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, this matter, raised by the member opposite, clearly falls within provincial jurisdiction. The Provincial Auditor has been asked to examine whether the Government of Saskatchewan followed appropriate procedures and received appropriate value with respect to the acquisition by the Global Transportation Hub of the land in question.

Under the gateways and border crossings fund, and consistent with all federal infrastructure transportation funding programs, costs associated with land acquisition are not eligible for federal reimbursement.

I want to congratulate the member opposite for all the work he is doing, and I hope that he will share that with his counterparts in the provincial government and the opposition in Saskatchewan. We understand that Ms. Ferguson, the Provincial Auditor, is continuing to gather all the information surrounding the deal and is aiming to have the report finished before the end of the spring sitting of the legislature. I am sure that she would welcome the member's important information.

Ethics June 14th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise in the House to speak to the issue of the global transportation hub project and our government's commitment to the utmost care and prudence in the handling of public funds.

This project includes the construction of transportation infrastructure in support of the global transportation hub, a premier transportation and logistics centre in Regina that involves many suppliers and retailers.

The Government of Canada has committed $27 million to the province of Saskatchewan for transportation infrastructure supporting this. Let me be unequivocal on the question of land costs associated with the project. None of the $27 million contribution was provided for the acquisition of land.

As far as the issue of land acquisition is concerned, this is clearly a provincial matter, and it is worth noting that the lieutenant governor in council in the province of Saskatchewan has requested that the provincial auditor perform a special assignment on the matter of land acquisition as it pertains to the global transportation hub project.

Although this issue falls under provincial jurisdiction, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak about an underlying issue, and that is the monitoring of taxpayers' money. In fact, increased monitoring of taxpayers' money is one of the key priorities set out in the President of the Treasury Board's mandate letter. I am pleased to announce that the President of the Treasury Board has already taken measures in this regard in the supplementary estimates (C) 2015-16, which were made public on March 1.

For the first time, there is an online annex to the supplementary estimates, which provides Parliament with an early indication of the lapses expected for this fiscal year. This annex also contains a report on frozen allotments, which are funds that have been approved by Parliament but to which the Treasury Board has restricted access for a variety of reasons. This important information gives an early indication of the amount of funding that will go unused during the fiscal year.

Here is what the parliamentary budget officer had to say about the improved monitoring of Canadian taxpayers' money:

The publication of these frozen allotments a full ten months prior to the Public Accounts of Canada represents an important increase in fiscal transparency, ensuring that parliamentarians are on a less unequal footing with the Government.

In the 2016-17 supplementary estimates (A), we also introduced a reconciliation table to show how the budget 2016 spending forecast was related to the planned expenditures shown in the 2016-17 estimates to date. The parliamentary budget officer, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates, as well as the Senate Committee on National Finance have all acknowledged this work as an important advance in transparency and reporting to Parliament.

Our government is committed to making yet further improvements in how we plan and report on government spending and empower parliamentarians and their scrutiny over the public purse.

Public Service Labour Relations Act May 30th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask my colleague a question about the exclusions.

We heard the member for Elmwood—Transcona say that some of the exclusions were made for provincial police and therefore should be included in this bill. However, we know that the RCMP is unique and different from provincial police forces. That is exactly why the opposition members argued against workers' compensation at the provincial level.

Could the member explain why the exclusions are still the best solution for this unique national organization?

Public Service Labour Relations Act May 30th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for his work on Bill C-7. However, he asked a question about exclusions, and I will answer that before asking him another question.

Bill C-7 would align the RCMP labour relations and collective bargaining with the rest of the public service. It has exclusions that apply to other public servants. What works well is that there are other avenues established in statutes where employees can pursue their interests and objectives in collective bargaining. It is far more than just pay and benefits that is included, as there is a whole host of other issues.

I would like to hear the member's thoughts on the issue that was raised by the member for Durham. He supported everything about Bill C-7 until the last few minutes of his speech. He then pulled his support, walking away from the constitutional rights to appropriate collective bargaining and turning his back on RCMP members, on the issue of card check versus secret ballot.

The member is very aware that the board has the right to apply the secret ballot. Should it think there is uncertainty in any way as to what the card-check method produced in terms of the intentions of the members, it can and will have a secret ballot.

Could the member explain his position around the certification and decertification to help me understand why the Conservatives would walk away from the entire bill on that issue?

Public Service Labour Relations Act May 30th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands for raising this important point. As a Liberal member in opposition in previous years, not only have I participated in meetings with members of the RCMP who have suffered harassment and not received proper support and response, but I have hosted such meetings in my constituency of Vancouver Quadra. Therefore, I am in complete agreement that there is a problem within the organization, that there has been a problem historically, and that there remains a problem. I want to assure the member that the minister is seized of this issue and is working on it.

I would ask how collective bargaining would address that. That would suggest that in other organizations that have the right to have representation and collective bargaining there is no such harassment happening. However, that is not the case, not in some of our municipal first responder forces nor with national first responders. Therefore, I would say that collective bargaining cannot necessarily address the aspects of an organization's culture and human behaviour that leads to this completely unacceptable activity and that we must take serious measures to prevent—

Public Service Labour Relations Act May 30th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, here is one very important aspect. The legislation before us, Bill C-7, requires that a collective bargaining employee representation organization not also be substantially representing other public servants, so that it is a dedicated collective bargaining organization. That is very important because of the nature of the RCMP's work.

Think of a time when the RCMP might be called in to address a situation of disorder that has to do with a strike and collective bargaining. How would its members respond if it were members of their same union in a different category who were on strike, a different type of employee in one large umbrella union? That would be extremely problematic and conflicting for RCMP members, but that is exactly the situation that could arise, should the RCMP be organized by a union that has some other components to its responsibilities.

It would not be in the public interest, and it would certainly not be in the RCMP's interests to be put in that situation where it may need to take action against its own union and fellow union members. That is why having a union dedicated to the RCMP is so important. For that, we need Bill C-7 to be passed as soon as possible.

Public Service Labour Relations Act May 30th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, the member raised two key issues. One was the short time, and the other was what he called stripping out rights. I will respond to the second one first. This would not strip out rights. This would provide rights. It would provide the right to be represented. It would provide the right to collective bargaining, and it would not be just pay and benefits. There are a whole host of issues that can be bargained collectively, such as hours of work, scheduling, call-back and reporting conditions, leave provisions, designated paid holidays, vacation leave, sick leave, parental leave, and I could go on.

However, I also want to address the first part of the member's question, which is about how quickly we are aiming to have the bill completed, and that is because there was a Supreme Court decision on this. The extension has expired, and now we are in a period where the lack of representation is not allowed, so this is a period of confusion. We need to make sure it is absolutely as short as possible, on behalf of the RCMP members themselves.

There are opportunities for several unions to move in and make an attempt to represent RCMP members. That would not be in the interests of having a unified national police force that can be managed nor for the members themselves having constant and consistent conditions in their collective agreement. It is not in their interests to delay this, and it has been thoroughly discussed and studied. I encourage the member to support this on behalf of the RCMP members in his constituency.

Public Service Labour Relations Act May 30th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, I would like to make sure the member understands that under this bill there may be a secret ballot for the RCMP, but it would be for the board to determine whether that is the appropriate certification or decertification method given the circumstances.

I would also like to remind the member that the previous government's own analysis, the study it had commissioned on the impacts of secret ballots, concluded that using a secret ballot has led to a significant decline in unionization. In other words, it made it more difficult for members of the public service to be represented by a bargaining agent.

We are looking for a fair approach that could select a secret ballot, but also the card check, depending on the circumstances of which would be the most fair.

Public Service Labour Relations Act May 30th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, I stand today to offer my support for Bill C-7, a bill that respects the rights of the dedicated women and men serving in the RCMP by providing a new labour relations framework for RCMP members and reservists.

The bill is a significant step forward in the history of the RCMP and its labour rights. It would enable RCMP members and reservists to engage in meaningful collective bargaining. I am proud of this initiative that is so in the public interest and serves the rights and well-being of these dedicated women and men.

Our national mounted police force has not only a storied past but now a stronger future. Since its beginning in 1873 when Prime Minister John A. Macdonald introduced in the House the act establishing the Northwest mounted police, the RCMP has been an integral part of Canada's development. From the 1874 march west from Fort Dufferin, Manitoba to policing the Klondike gold rush, to the St. Roch passage through the Northwest Passage, to the last spike of the Canadian Pacific railway in Craigellachie, British Columbia, to the vital roles in World Wars I and II, the RCMP has played an instrumental role throughout our country's history.

Despite its long, storied contribution to Canada, its members did not have the full freedom of association with respect to collective bargaining. That would now change. The Supreme Court of Canada has removed the barriers RCMP members faced in exercising this right, a right guaranteed to all Canadians by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The bill provides the appropriate framework for the labour legislation that will govern the RCMP. It gives RCMP members and reservists the same access to a collective bargaining process that other police forces in Canada have.

To do that, the bill amends the Public Service Labour Relations Act and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Act to create a new labour relations regime for RCMP members and reservists.

More specifically, it will give RCMP members and reservists the right to choose whether they wish to be represented by an employee organization during collective agreement negotiations with the Treasury Board of Canada.

As I said, before the Supreme Court decision, RCMP members could not organize or participate in collective bargaining.

Indeed, they have been excluded from the labour relations regime governing even the federal public service since the introduction of collective bargaining for this sector. Instead, members of the RCMP had access to a non-unionized labour relations program. This program had initially been imposed by section 96 of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police regulations in 1988. It was then repealed and replaced by substantially similar section 56 of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police regulations in 2014.

Its core component was the staff relations representative program, or SRRP, the primary mechanism through which RCMP members could raise labour relations issues. It was also the only forum of employee representation recognized by management, and it was governed by a national executive committee.

The program was staffed by member representatives from various RCMP divisions and regions elected for a three-year term by both regular and civilian members of the RCMP. Two of its representatives acted as the formal point of contact with the national management of the RCMP.

The aim of the SRRP was that at each level of hierarchy, members' representatives and management consulted on human resources initiatives and policies. However, the final word always rested with management.

Many changes were subsequently made to this labour relations regime, which increased the independence of the staff relations representative program.

However, none of these changes had much of an impact on its objective, place or function within the traditional RCMP chain of command.

In May 2006, two private groups of RCMP members filed a constitutional challenge on behalf of RCMP members in Ontario and British Columbia regarding labour issues.

These two groups were never recognized for the purposes of collective bargaining or consultation on labour issues by RCMP management or the federal government.

They saw the declaration that the combined effect of the exclusion of RCMP members from the application of the Public Service Labour Relations Act and the imposition of the SRRP as a labour relations regime unjustifiably infringed members' freedom of association.

The Supreme Court ruled that key parts of the RCMP labour relations regime were unconstitutional. It struck down the exclusion of RCMP members from the definition of employee in the Public Service Relations Act as unconstitutional, and it held that a section of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police regulations infringed on the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. In fact, the court affirmed that section 2(d) of the charter “protects a meaningful process of collective bargaining that provides employees with a degree of choice and independence sufficient to enable them to determine and pursue their collective interests”.

In the case of the RCMP, the court determined that the existing labour relations regime, built around the staff relations representative program, denied RCMP members that choice, and imposed a program that did not permit RCMP members to identify and advance their workplace concerns free from management's influence. It found that the staff relations representative program did not meet the criterial necessary for meaningful collective bargaining. Under this program, RCMP members were represented by organizations they did not choose, and they worked within a structure that lacked independence from government. The court held that this violated their charter right to freedom of association.

I am proud that our new government's bill, Bill C-7, addresses just that. It brings labour rights governing this group of federal employees into line with the federal public sector labour relations regime, which has been in place for over 40 years. It provides RCMP members and reservists with a sufficient degree of choice and independence from management while recognizing their unique operational reality.

The RCMP is a nationwide federal public sector police organization, and thus its labour regime should be aligned and consistent with the fundamental framework for labour relations and collective bargaining for the federal public service.

Bill C-7 includes several general exclusions that mirror exclusions already in place for the rest of the public service. For example, staffing, pensions, organization of work, and assignments of duties are excluded from collective bargaining. Each of these issues is instead dealt with under other legislation, for example, the Public Service Employment Act for staffing, the Public Service Superannuation Act for pensions, and the Financial Administration Act for the organization of work and the assignment of duties. This system has been in place for years, and it works.

Having recently taken the GBA+ training module that government provides, which is gender-based analysis, I was impressed to see how the RCMP has been implementing gender-based analysis, the lens that ensures that both women and men are properly served in policy decisions taken by management. I want to congratulate the RCMP for being a leader in the implementation of this very important program.

There are other ways in which RCMP members can express their concerns about labour issues. If a uniformed member has a concern about the safety of the uniform, he or she can speak to the workplace health and safety committee. Together with the union representatives, the committee can study the issue and identify the best possible solution based on the evidence.

Moreover, workplace health and safety issues can be included in the collective agreement through bargaining. If members have concerns about employment conduct, they can share them with the union representative on the labour-management committee.

In other words, there are other ways for RCMP members and the union to raise concerns outside of the collective bargaining process. The members and the union can work with management to improve the workplace.

I would also like to point out that some have criticized the bill and said that only pay and benefits can be collectively bargained. This is simply not the case. There is a whole host of other issues that can be collectively bargained. Conditions of work, such as hours of work, scheduling, call back, and reporting conditions, can be collectively bargained. Leave provisions, such as designated paid holidays, vacation leave, sick leave, and parental leave, can be collectively bargained. Labour relations matters, such as terms and conditions for grievance procedures and procedures for classification and workforce adjustment, can be collectively bargained. For example, the decision to lay off an employee is a staffing matter, which is not subject to negotiation. However, measures such as compensation or the manner in which layoffs are conducted may be negotiated.

As I said, the Supreme Court invalidated the existing labour relations framework for the RCMP because it violated the charter right to freedom of association. The court suspended its judgment for one year to give government time to consider its options. The government sought an extension and was given an additional four months to provide a new labour relations framework for RCMP members and reservists. Unfortunately, the suspension of the Supreme Court of Canada's decision has now expired. Therefore, it is important that the government move quickly to put in place a new labour relations framework to minimize disruption for RCMP members, reservists, and management.

Indeed, delaying the passage of this legislation is problematic for a number of reasons. There currently is an overlap between the RCMP Act and the Public Service Labour Relations Act, which could result in confusion and conflicting interpretations. In addition, members could be represented by multiple bargaining agents, making it difficult for the RCMP to maintain a cohesive national approach to labour relations. That is especially worrisome given the nature and function of our national police force, in which members are posted to positions anywhere across the country in a variety of functions and activities. The potential to be represented by a number of various bargaining units could be very confusing.

Should this not pass quickly, there is also the concern of uncertainty among RCMP members about their collective bargaining rights and the measures they can take should they need access to representation.

Let me add two further arguments for the swift passage of this legislation. The government took steps, including consultations with RCMP members in the summer of 2015 to bring this new framework into compliance with the Supreme Court's ruling. Last summer, regular members of the RCMP were consulted through an online survey and town hall meetings to seek their views on potential elements of a labour relations framework.

At the same time, Public Safety Canada consulted with the provinces, territories, and municipalities that are served by the RCMP through police service agreements. Public Safety Canada will continue the dialogue with contracting parties as the new regime is implemented. The findings from these consultations were very helpful and instructive in developing the elements of Bill C-7.

Finally, let me add that this bill is also consistent with our government's efforts to restore fair and balanced labour laws in this country. We believe in collective bargaining. That is why, for example, we introduced Bill C-5, which would repeal division 20 of Bill C-59, the 2015 budget implementation act, which was tabled last April by the previous government. Division 20 would have provided the government with the authority to unilaterally override the collective bargaining process and impose a new sick leave system on the public service. By repealing those provisions in Bill C-59, we are also demonstrating our respect for the collective bargaining process.

We believe in fair and balanced labour relations, and we recognize the important role that unions play in Canada.

That is why we have also introduced measures to repeal Bill C-377 and Bill C-525, which were also passed without the usual consultation process for labour relations law reform by the previous government. Bill C-377 placed new financial reporting requirements on unions, and Bill C-525 changed how unions could be certified and decertified.

Bill C-7 restores the power of the federal Public Sector Labour Relations Board to select the certification or decertification method appropriate to each particular situation, and I would say fair method to both the representing and the represented parties, rather than being limited to the mandatory vote method, which can skew a decision against the union in certain circumstances.

The previous government had research and a report that concluded that very situation.

Recently, on May 25, the government announced its intention to repeal portions of the Economic Action Plan 2013 Act, No. 2, division 17. The portions in question have to do with changes made to essential services, collective bargaining and processes for grievances, and dispute resolution without any consultations with public sector partners. We took these important measures to ensure that workers are free to organize and that unions and employers can bargain collectively in good faith.

Bill C-7 honours this right, a right that has long been exercised by all other police officers in Canada. It is the right to good faith collective bargaining. This bill would institute this right in law. It would lay out the rules that govern labour relations for RCMP members and reservists, and enshrine the principles and values of our society as reflected in the charter and as required by the Supreme Court of Canada. It would recognize the particular circumstances of our unique national police force, the RCMP.

I would ask my colleagues to do the right thing and support the passage of this bill, so that it becomes law without further delay.