Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Oakville North—Burlington.
I am pleased to have this opportunity to speak in support of the government's motion related to Bill C-7. This piece of legislation is important for both the RCMP and for Canadians. It is a step forward in Canadian labour relations.
As we all know, the bill originates with the decision by the Supreme Court of Canada more than two years ago, in January 2015. There is some urgency for us to enact this piece of legislation into law so that the RCMP can be the best police force in the world, with good management practices matching the ability of our RCMP officers to keep Canadians safe.
The court found that certain parts of the RCMP labour relations regime were in fact unconstitutional because they prevented the formation of an independent RCMP employee organization. The government took steps, including extensive consultation, to bring this framework into compliance with the Supreme Court's ruling, and Bill C-7 is the result.
I differ with the position of the previous speaker by saying that there has been extensive consultation. The bill has been under a microscope for a great deal of time in a committee of the House of Commons and a committee of the Senate, as well as through debate in the House of Commons and debate in the Senate. It is now time for us to act quickly on this motion to ensure that we can have effective collective bargaining for the very hard-working members of the RCMP.
With the passage of this bill, RCMP members and reservists would, for the first time, have a labour relations framework in place that would allow them to choose whether or not to be represented in negotiations by an employee organization, something that other police services in Canada already have. Almost 100 years ago, the Vancouver police union received its charter and was established with the mandate to effectively and democratically represent its members as a bargaining unit under the British Columbia labour code. It is time for us to act so that Canadians have a similar approach to policing in Canada.
Action is something that RCMP officers know a lot about. As the chair of the public safety and national security committee, I want to commend members of the RCMP for consistently and constantly serving and protecting Canadians with diligence, with grace, and with a tremendous competence that Canadians have begun to appreciate more and more. Whether it is diving into icy water to rescue a woman in distress or protecting us in this very place, RCMP officers demonstrate their personal dedication and self-sacrifice in service of others, and now we as members of this chamber need to reciprocate and take action to help them, to serve them, and to protect them.
The Prime Minister and the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness are strongly committed to whatever action is necessary to help RCMP members, trainees, and employees feel safe and respected among their colleagues and supervisors.
A number of steps have been taken since 2014 to protect RCMP members in the workplace. These include measures to address harassment and conflict management as well as promote a healthy and respectful workplace.
The RCMP continues its ongoing efforts to improve its work environment, including a modernized code of conduct, a streamlined harassment investigation and resolution process, and improved training for harassment investigators. Bill C-7 builds on these efforts to implement a robust labour relations regime for the RCMP. To that end, the government has given thorough consideration to the Senate's amendments and is now ready to move forward.
The government's response significantly addresses the main concerns that we heard at the House of Commons standing committee as well as in the Senate, and I am very proud to support the government's response to the Senate amendments.
In the spirit of compromise that is so important in an institution like ours, the government is willing to accept the removal of all restrictions on what may be included in collective agreements and arbitral awards that are specific to the RCMP. These restrictions on what could be collectively bargained for were the focal points of the criticism that we heard at committee and that we are now acting on.
Sometimes this kind of conversation takes time. However, that conversation has been had. I stress to members of this chamber that the reality is we need to act quickly and effectively. We have considered, and now is the time to act.
That is why I am pleased to report that the government's response would allow the employer and any future RCMP member bargaining agent to engage in meaningful discussions in good faith on topics of importance to the RCMP members and reservists who were excluded from collective bargaining rights under the original version of Bill C-7.
As a result, matters associated with transfers, appraisals, harassment, and general aspects of workplace wellness, including the promotion of a respectful workplace and early conflict resolution, could be discussed at the bargaining table and included in a collective agreement or arbitration award. Of course, conditions of work, such as hours of work, scheduling, call-back, and reporting conditions could also be collectively bargained, as could leave provisions, such as designated paid holidays, vacation leave, sick leave, and parental leave. Labour relations matters, such as terms and conditions for grievance procedures and procedures around classification and workplace adjustment, are also part of that process.
The proposal before us today also accepts the idea of a management rights clause, but proposes implementing a more targeted clause that focuses on protecting the authorities that the RCMP commissioner needs in order to ensure effective police operations. This is a balanced approach. The reality is that the bargaining unit would have the right to engage in conversations at the bargaining table about issues important to RCMP members, and management would reserve the right to ensure that Canadians are safe and protected and that we have operational institutional effectiveness at the RCMP, not by excluding anything in collective bargaining but by ensuring we have a targeted approach to make sure the RCMP functions properly, as Canadians would want.
As I am sure all my hon. colleagues on these benches do, the Government of Canada takes seriously the responsibility to protect the safety and security of Canadians. This amended management rights clause supports that responsibility.
Now let us consider why the motion disagrees with the removal of restrictions that replicate those applying to other areas of the federal public service.
As our national police service, the RCMP must have a labour regime that is aligned with and consistent with the fundamental framework for labour relations and collective bargaining that exists within the whole of the federal public service. As such, Bill C-7 extends to RCMP members many general exclusions that already apply in the rest of the public service, such as staffing, pensions, organization of work, and the assignment of duties.
With respect to pensions, while the public service pension plan has never been the subject of collective bargaining under the Public Service Labour Relations Act, or its predecessor, the Public Service Staff Relations Act, the federal government has traditionally consulted with employee representatives on pension issues and is committed to continuing that conversation, negotiation, and consultation.
Public sector pensions have established statutory pension advisory committees whose membership is composed of employer, employee, and pensioner representatives. These committees review matters respecting the administration, design, and funding of the benefits provided under the superannuation acts and make recommendations to the responsible minister about those matters. This is an activity we would continue.
When it comes to the certification process, I do not believe that the certification of a bargaining agent to represent RCMP members and reservists should require a secret ballot. We need to be consistent with the government's proposed law, Bill C-4, and it would be reasonable that an organization wanting to represent RCMP members should not be subject to certification processes different from those of other organizations under federal labour relations legislation.
Finally, the government proposes to not proceed with expanding the mandate of the Public Service Labour Relations and Employment Board to hear grievances on a wider range of matters relating to terms and conditions of employment. That would be inconsistent with its work with the rest of the federal public service.
Now is the time to act on Bill C-7. The House of Commons standing committee deliberated it thoroughly and thoughtfully, and heard concerns. The Senate has deservedly done its work and has appropriately amended it. The government has considered those amendments and has determined that some of them fall in line with the government's proposed agenda with respect to the RCMP certification process.
I am pleased to support Bill C-7 and welcome all other members to support the bill and our amendments as we go forward.