Interventions in the House of Commons
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View Daniel Blaikie Profile
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
2017-06-16 12:57 [p.12879]
Mr. Speaker, I am rising today to speak to what is essentially the government's omnibus transportation bill. Unfortunately, I will not be able to hit on all the points of what is contemplated in the bill because, frankly, there is too much. It changes laws having to do with everything from shipping to railways to the airlines. It changes a number of different acts, and with a number of different purposes in mind. It would have been better to break the bill up into its component pieces so that they could be studied properly and on theme, rather than trying to rush it all through at once.
I would remind members of the House that debate in this place is not just for the sake of opposition politicians, or even backbench MPs on the government side, wanting to talk a lot. When we are talking in the chamber, and during the time it takes to pass the bill, Canadians and civil society are also learning about the bill and forming a judgment about whether they think it is a good idea or not, and having the time to be able to mobilize, either in support or against aspects of the government program.
When we talk about criticizing omnibus bills, it is not just for the sake of members in the House who want to go on talking. While we talk about that bill, Canadians are talking about it too, and they are getting a chance to weigh in. They are able to contact us, and become, through us in this place, part of the debate. Therefore, when governments lump a whole bunch of significant changes together and ram them through Parliament, they are not just cutting out parliamentarians from that debate. That is the time it takes in order to have a meaningful, civil engagement with respect to changes.
Bill C-49 contemplates many significant changes in a number of different areas of transport within Canada. As someone who comes from a rail town, I am particularly concerned about the provisions that purport to be about railway safety. Actually, what they are about is supervising workers in the workplace and tramping on their right to privacy in the workplace. We know that in terms of railway safety, the predominant issue has to do with fatigue management. What we hear time and again from people who are working on the trains is that railway companies in Canada are doing a very poor job of fatigue management. We know that is having real consequences for Canadians and the extent to which they feel safe in their own communities.
A government that was genuinely sincere about wanting to do something about railway safety in the country would be taking action on the issue of fatigue management. However, that would require getting involved in telling the railway companies something they do not want to hear. What we have seen from the government is that it is not willing to stand up to big companies and tell them what they do not want to hear. That is certainly true of railway companies.
It is not only true of railway companies. It was true when Bay Street corporate magnates came to Parliament Hill and told the Liberals to break their promise on closing the CEO stock option loophole. It was true when Air Canada came knocking and said it wanted to be off the hook for when it broke the law and exported the maintenance work on its planes, which rightfully belonged to Canadian maintenance workers. The government retroactively changed the law, and shame on certain members of the House. I am thinking of some colleagues of mine from Winnipeg, particularly the member for Winnipeg North, who stood with those workers and said the previous government should enforce the law and then became part of a government that changed the law and pulled the carpet out from beneath the feet of those workers who were successfully challenging Air Canada in court.
It is a theme of the Liberals to play pushover to big companies. The provisions around railway safety in the bill are no different. The railway companies came to them and said, “Let's not talk about fatigue management. Let's talk about putting video and audio surveillance in the cabs of trains so that we can watch the workers.”
If the Liberals were sincere about making it a safety issue, there would be provisions in the bill that would say only the Transportation Safety Board would have access to those recordings, and only when something happened, so it could go back and find out what was the root cause of an incident and rule on that. Instead, the legislation would give that 24-7 surveillance material to the companies, any time they like, for whatever purpose they like. Therefore, it is hard to believe that this is really about railway safety when the government is silent on the real issue facing railways and railway communities when it comes to their safety, and is giving unfettered access to that material to employers who we know will be able to use that information for other purposes.
The other thing about omnibus bills is that, for as much as certain things that require more legislation and more study do not get that study, by mingling issues, some things where there is widespread agreement, for instance some of the provisions in the bill for grain producers on the Prairies, who in part because of the elimination of the Wheat Board now need a legislative fix in order for them to be able to get a fair price for shipping their grain, do not get passed as quickly as they might.
The problem with the legislation is that the Liberals took so long to take action on that particular issue, which was not a surprise and did not have to wait on developing. To the extent that the government was putting all these issues together, and it is not a very thorough air passenger bill of rights, because it wanted to present it in an omnibus bill, the Liberals took far too long to address a real problem on the Canadian Prairies for grain growers.
Now we are going to have a gap between when the old rules were in place, as a bit of Band-Aid solution to be able to help those grain producers on the Prairies, and when these new rules come in. If the Liberals were not so committed to omnibus legislation, they could have introduced those measures separately. They would have found that there was enough agreement to be able to expedite passage of those provisions. On this side of the House, we care about western grain growers and we want to make sure that they can get a fair price for shipping their grain.
However, the Liberals wanted to tie all these issues together in order to be able to conflate the issues and say that opposition parties are opposing good pieces of legislation, or were supporting bad pieces of the legislation. It is all tied together. In other words, in order to cover their political behinds, Canadian grain producers are the ones who are going to suffer.
It is wrong of the government to ask Canadian grain growers to essentially pay for political cover for the government. That is a big part of what is going on here.
I just want to take a moment to thank the member for Windsor West, not only for sharing his time with me today but also for the work that he did on the air passenger bill of rights. He actually helped to develop a substantive air passenger bill of rights. I will also recognize one of my NDP predecessors for Elmwood—Transcona, Jim Maloway, who did good work on an air passenger bill of rights. He paved the way and presented a bill in the last Parliament that the now Minister of Transport actually supported. It took forever to produce and the changes that were necessary to actually protect consumers were spelled out in that legislation, a bill the Minister of Transport supported.
However, do we see the substance of that bill represented in this omnibus piece of legislation? No, we do not.
This is just how complicated omnibus legislation gets. Canadian grain growers were waiting for legislation to fix a legitimate problem the government knew about since it took office. The Liberals came up with a lame phantom version of an air passenger bill of rights that was already developed while they were really just having discussions with the railway on how to institute 24-7 surveillance, so that the railway companies could know about the issues that were being discussed in the workplace between workers who were members of the union and who wanted to file grievances or take up other issues with their employers.
That is how muddled it all gets when things that have absolutely nothing to do with each other are all rammed into the same bill. That is really what is going on with the bill. It is kind of a big tossed salad of different legislative measures, some of which the government probably could have found widespread agreement on and would have been able to advance quickly, and some of which is just sort of a hollow version of previous legislation that the Liberals have no excuse for having taken this long to get around to. Had they adopted more substantive provisions, they probably would have found more widespread agreement.
All of that is going on so that the Liberals can work with certain companies, and in this case I would say particular rail companies, in order to do something that has nothing to do with rail safety and everything to do with employers at the railway being able to put employees under their thumb. It is a travesty.
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
2017-05-16 10:36 [p.11238]
Madam Speaker, general arguments about time allocation aside, with respect to this particular motion, there is an important question. The Senate reported back with its amendments in June 2016. That was almost 11 months ago. The government's position was that it needed time to analyze those amendments and come up with an appropriate response. The Liberals tabled that response five days ago. They needed time to consider and pronounce on the Senate amendments. They then offered amendments of their own that are no less complex than the ones made by the Senate. To provide not only opposition parties but stakeholders, such as the NPF, the MPPAC, and the AMPMQ, with only five days to consider their response is simply not enough.
Why do the Liberals think it is fine for the government to take 11 months to consider those changes and to then tell us that we need to hurry this through under time allocation to get it done? Why could they not have come back to the House sooner with this response, and if it really was the case that it took 11 months, why will the government not give the House a bit longer to consider the response?
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
2017-05-16 10:45 [p.11239]
Madam Speaker, presumably, if we want to get something like this right, we have to do some consultation. My understanding is that none of the prospective bargaining agents were aware of the language of the motion prior to Thursday. Could the government confirm to us that management of the RCMP did not have a sneak peek or special input into the composition of the motion as well.
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
2017-05-16 11:46 [p.11242]
Mr. Speaker, I will pick up more or less where I left off last Friday.
Members will recall that debate started on the government response to the Senate amendments last Friday. The response had been tabled only the preceding evening, the Thursday evening, and I want to come back to that because it is an important part of the debate around this government response that there has been limited time, and because of the time allocation just passed because of the government, there is only going to be a very limited amount of time for the consideration of the government response in the House. That is not just time for debate. That is time for the opposition parties, to be sure, but also for the stakeholders like the prospective bargaining agents and RCMP members themselves to digest what the government response to the Senate amendments is and then to determine whether they agree with that. Therefore, it bears repeating that it is not a lot of time.
When we look at the government's own assessment of the complexity of the matter and how much time it takes to do justice to these issues, we get a very different idea of how much time one would want to take to be able to consider the government's response. The Liberals took almost 11 months to consider the response of the Senate to their bill. I would remind the House that we voted on the original version of Bill C-7 on May 30, 2016. That bill was then introduced in the Senate on May 31, 2016. I have not heard any of the government members say that the other place did not give Bill C-7 its due consideration. In fact, they said that the Senate did quite the job of going through the details of that bill. The Senate did that in about 20 days, from May 31 to June 21, 2016. Then it took almost 11 months for the government to come back, and now it is asking us to take a position on its response within only five days. Therefore, there is a real question of fairness.
I would never want to suggest that the President of the Treasury Board was misleading in his answers to the House. Earlier, he did say that we have debated this bill in the House for 16 hours. If that was not meant to deliberately mislead, then it is a sign of some laziness, perhaps, that he did not bother to change his speaking notes from third reading of the bill, which also was moved under time allocation. What we debated at that time, in May 2016, is very different from what we are debating today, which has to do not only with the amendments made by the other place, because we have not had an opportunity to deliberate on those in this place, but on top of the amendments made by the other place that the government took 11 months to consider, we are now also having a debate on the government response to those amendments. That is not a simple response. It is not a simple rejection or acceptance of those amendments. It is actually an amendment to those amendments.
Therefore, the idea that we are going to do a proper job and do justice to RCMP members across the country who have fought for years in court to get the right to bargain collectively and want to see it done properly—and the government says it wants to see it done properly—and get that done in five days, unfortunately I do not think we can. I regret that, and I regret that we only have those five days. We are doing our best on this side of the House to give our considered opinion on the content of that legislation, but it is hard to do so under the time constraints unreasonably and unfairly imposed by the government on this motion. That is important to say, because it is no small part of how the debate today is going to unfold and of the decision that is ultimately going to be taken.
We do have some concerns. There are some positive aspects to this response and then there are some aspects that warrant further study. I will say again that the study is not going to happen, because we are going to settle the issue today, one way or the other, and the bill will be on its way back to the other place.
On the positive side, it is no secret here that we do support having a card-check system as an option for RCMP members. The government has been clear and consistent in its support for that. We agree on that. That is good, and we are glad to see in the government response that it is maintaining the commitment to making card check available. That is something that is important in principle, but it is also important logistically in this case because RCMP members are spread out right across the country. They are in rural and remote communities. Some RCMP members are posted internationally. They can reach 50% or more of the membership and if they agree with having a union, then they know that if they have a vote they are going to get that 50% plus one.
If there is a vote, all at once, that means everybody has to get a ballot at the same time, they have to be able to return that ballot within a similar time frame, and the logistics of organizing that are very difficult. It is especially difficult if that is going to be thrown on the prospective bargaining agent. These are not established unions, by definition.
The RCMP has not been unionized before, and Bill C-7 rightly requires that a union representing RCMP members would have to consist only of RCMP members. Bill C-7 also talks about one national bargaining unit that is police only. There is not a pre-existing union with the resources and expertise that could mount that kind of vote, and do it in a way that all RCMP members could be reassured that it has the thoroughness and integrity of process that RCMP members would expect when certifying a bargaining agent.
We were glad to see that in the bill. We are glad to see the removal of exclusions from the bill. Members of the House who have been following this legislation will know that we in the NDP have been arguing very hard for the removal of those exclusions. We believe that is the best way to ensure that RCMP members get the free and fair collective bargaining that they fought so hard to achieve for themselves in court.
Just as a quick aside, we have heard the government trying to take credit somehow for conferring collective bargaining rights on RCMP members. That is simply not true. The Supreme Court made that decision, and it is because of the Supreme Court that RCMP members have the right to bargain collectively. That was not a decision of the current government, and it was not a decision by the last government, not by any stretch. That is a right that was conferred on RCMP members by the Supreme Court as a function of our Charter of Rights and Freedoms here in Canada that the court has said guarantees people the right to collective bargaining if they want and if they choose that for themselves.
Bill C-7 helps set a framework for collective bargaining, but we also know that Bill is not necessary, although it is desirable if the government gets it right. It will have certain things that RCMP members have said they want: one national bargaining unit, binding arbitration, and some other features. That is good. It makes sense to have a unique framework for the RCMP, in terms of collective bargaining.
However, Bill C-7 does not give them that. The RCMP has the right to collective bargaining right now. In fact, there are two active applications before the labour board to represent RCMP members. One is by the NPF, for a national bargaining unit, and the other is by the AMPMQ, to represent members only in Quebec. I will come back to that in a bit.
This is where we are. Bill C-7 is not the government conferring collective bargaining rights to the RCMP members. That is a right they won; that is a right that is theirs irrespective of the point of view of any government of the day. That is something that has been guaranteed to them by the Supreme Court.
We are glad to see the exclusions being removed and the government ultimately agreeing with the NDP suggestion at committee and here in the House of Commons last May, which was to get rid of those exclusions.
However, we do have concerns that the management rights clause, which is being put in place of the exclusions, may be used as a way to reintroduce those exclusions by other means. It may be that we could dispel those concerns over time, if we had the time to study this properly. It is true that in many cases there are management rights clauses, either in collective agreements or in legislation. That is okay.
However, some of the language is interesting. In the Senate amendment, the Senate essentially said that the management rights of the RCMP would include anything having to do with the human resources powers conferred to the RCMP commissioner under the RCMP Act. What we have heard from the government is that it did not agree with that, and it is going to change that. It wants a more targeted management rights clause.
The word used by the parliamentary secretary on Friday in debate is “targeted”, not “limited”, so the government changed the language from management rights having to do with the human resources authority granted to the commissioner under the RCMP Act to a management rights clause that enshrines the power of the commissioner to ensure effective operations. That sounds, on the face of it, pretty good. Who would not want the operations of the RCMP to be effective?
However, the arguments made by the commissioner before committee, both at the House and the Senate, for the exclusions were essentially saying that all these things have to be excluded because to not exclude them would impede the effective operations of the RCMP.
I think RCMP members, and Canadians, have a right to feel suspect that this management rights clause, I would argue, while it may be more targeted from a functional point of view on the effectiveness of the force, is nevertheless broader in that it allows the commissioner to reach outside of his existing authority under the RCMP Act for human resource issues only—there is an itemized list in section 20.2(1), (a) through (l)—and interpret that to mean just about whatever the commissioner may want to have it mean, depending on what is being brought to the table.
There are reasonable concerns about that. I think more time is needed to examine that to see if this is just going to be another way for the RCMP commissioner to reintroduce exclusions. I would say, even though we may be able to challenge the RCMP commissioner's interpretation of that language—the RCMP commissioner may not be the final authority on that—what it does mean is that when a new bargaining unit, if the RCMP members do choose to certify one, brings things to the table, they can end up in lengthy delays, first at the labour board, potentially, and then in court, trying to define what “effective operations” means. Then we are going to have someone at the labour board, presumably, weighing in on whether the commissioner is right about what it takes to run effective operations as the RCMP.
It is not clear to me that this management rights clause does not provide another way of introducing some of those exclusions. It is not clear to me that it is not going to trigger lengthy and onerous processes in order to, ultimately, be able to define that language because it is not defined by the government what “effective operations” actually means, so there is no limited scope to that definition offered by the government. I think that is something we are concerned about.
With respect to grievances, the government says it does not want grievances filed under the PSLRA and under the RCMP Act. Grievances should rest in one place, so we do not have dual claims.
Again, on the surface, that does make some sense. That sounds like a common-sense argument, just as it sounds pretty good when the President of the Treasury Board says we have already debated this for 16 hours. However, then we look into the details and we wonder if maybe that is not a bit misleading.
The thrust of many of the government's arguments with respect to Bill C-7 is that it wants to align RCMP labour relations better with the pre-existing model of the public service. However here, all of a sudden, what we are seeing is the grievance process carved out and put under the RCMP Act. Rather than trying to have the maximum number of grievances happen under the PSLRA, we are getting the maximum number happening under the RCMP Act.
There are two issues with that; one has to do, in a very practical sense, with what that means in the workplace. The non-commissioned officers of the RCMP are being deemed public servants. That is a process that is happening and will be complete sometime in 2018. What that means is that we may have an RCMP officer and a civilian member working side by side in the same office—like a divisional headquarters, for instance—dealing with sexual harassment from the same superior officer, and it is going to have two different grievance processes. One is going to happen under the PSLRA, and an independent third party, essentially, oversees that grievance process. However, for the officer, that grievance process is going to happen under the RCMP Act. We know that, at the end of the day, it is the commissioner who ultimately rules on that.
In fact, we just had a report come out yesterday that said that part of the problem in the institution and the culture of the RCMP is that grievances ultimately get determined in-house by the commissioner. One of the recommendations was to move away from that.
The report that came out just yesterday from the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission, called “Report into Workplace Harassment in the RCMP”, says:
...unlike public service employees who have the right to grieve the outcome of a harassment complaint in accordance with the procedures set out in their collective agreement (including arbitration before an independent third party), RCMP members still do not have access to an impartial third party appeals body.
That is because their grievances go through the RCMP Act.
What the government is doing in its response directly contradicts the advice of the report that came out yesterday, which said that grievance processes need to get further away from the commissioner, not closer to the commissioner, and it is doing it in a way that actually deviates from its mainline argument for most of what it is talking about, which is to bring RCMP labour relations practices into closer conformity with the rest of the public service. It feels a bit as if there is some cherry-picking going on, in terms of when to apply the argument for harmonizing public service labour relations and RCMP labour relations and when, when it is convenient either to the government or management—it is not always clear—to have things dealt with separately under the uniqueness of the RCMP.
We are concerned that there are issues of fairness both, as I say, in the concrete case of the workplace and also in terms of the general arguments provided by the government. It bears saying that one of the problems with this process is that too often it has been too difficult to determine the difference between government interests and management interests in this debate. We know that stakeholders did not get a sneak peak at the government's response. That is why I asked the President of the Treasury Board if RCMP management did and if RCMP management had special input into this process that other groups did not have. I note that we did not get a straight answer to that question. We got an answer to another question that was not asked.
If the government is trying, which I think it should, to give the perception that it is not tied at the hip to management in this process, but to actually be an independent third party arbiter that is trying to set up free and fair collective bargaining, I have to say that so far, it has done a very poor job of that.
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
2017-05-16 12:03 [p.11245]
Madam Speaker, I could not agree more. There are unique aspects to the RCMP. RCMP members would tell us that. They think they should have a special framework for bargaining, and that is why we support, in principle, Bill C-7. Our dispute has been with the details of how that is going to be implemented.
Yes, absolutely, there needs to be a unique bargaining framework. Our point has been that, yes, that should be determined by management and the union at the table. Our concern has been that the government's approach, in our view, has too often not been distinguishable from management's approach. There are some broken aspects of the institution right now, which is what the CRCC report yesterday talked about, that not all is well within the RCMP.
Our concern is that giving layer after layer of protection to management in the legislation would actually legislate some of the broken aspects of the current culture and not allow management and the union to work that out. We believe that having a good union with full capability to bring things to the table and work things out at the bargaining table and job sites effectively is a good way to start correcting some of what is wrong in the culture of the RCMP and that the government may be interfering with that by the way it is protecting management in legislation.
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
2017-05-16 12:06 [p.11245]
Mr. Speaker, this really has been part of the story. It has been a long story now, because the need for legislation creating a framework for collective bargaining for RCMP members has been before the government and before the House almost since we convened. Through that process, there are many who felt that the government is in a very close working relationship with management on this and that it is simply not the case that prospective bargaining agents who are providing the voice of rank and file members have had the same access to government and the same influence on government when coming up with these rules.
For the NDP, the role the government should be playing is as an independent arbiter. There was a decision made by the Supreme Court which said that RCMP members should have the right to free and fair collective bargaining, and the role of government should be to have gone out and figured out what are those aspects that are unique to the RCMP that call for a special framework.
We heard from RCMP members that they want one national bargaining unit. They want binding arbitration and they do not want the right to strike. Those are the important elements of Bill C-7, but beyond that, a lot of our debate, particularly with respect to the exclusions, has been about how much of what management does not want to have to deal with is management going to be exempted from dealing with through the legislation. A lot of people have felt that the government is simply too close to management on those issues. That is a problem because even if it is not the case, it certainly creates the perception that RCMP management is calling the shots.
I will give another example of where the government has helped to make a mess where there need not have been one. The period of 11 months from getting the Senate amendments until now was way longer than it had to be. What happened in April, just a couple of months ago, eight months after the Senate amendments, was that two organizations applied for certification. One is making an application to be a national bargaining agent, which would be allowed under Bill C-7, but the other is making an application to represent Quebec members only, which would not be allowed once Bill C-7 passes. I have heard from members who now feel that if Bill C-7 had passed earlier, they would not have had a problem, but now that these applications have been made, they feel that the government's rush to get this through effectively amounts to taking sides between one applicant or the other. When the legislation passes, and that is the question that is now before the labour board, it will rule one of those applications out.
By needlessly delaying, the Liberals have created at least a perception that they are taking sides which need not have been created. They created a lot of legal uncertainty and for the organization that has applied to represent Quebec members only, a lot of needless work, because at the end of the day, this is not going to happen for them if the government gets this through.
An hon. member: Don't take sides.
Mr. Daniel Blaikie: Mr. Speaker, I am just saying that is what we have been hearing and I think it is unfortunate to be in a position where the government is perceived to be taking sides by anyone. It did not have to be that way. We just had to have this conversation two months ago.
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
2017-05-16 12:11 [p.11246]
Mr. Speaker, this is a problem, and it is not one that the government can say in good faith that it was not aware of, because it is one that we have raised.
We have said that we need to get Bill C-7 back to the House, because it is creating legal uncertainty for prospective bargaining agents. Exactly because Bill C-7 is not what confers the right of collective bargaining on RCMP members, because it is a decision of the Supreme Court, they are allowed to apply it at any time under the existing rules. Therefore, because the NDP agrees with what the government is saying, if not what it does, that there is justification for a unique collective bargaining framework for RCMP members, although we may disagree about the details of what should be in it, we thought it was really important to get that in place as soon as possible. We knew and the government knew that there were prospective bargaining agents out there getting people to sign cards, demonstrating interest in the lead-up potentially to a vote. Bill C-4 has not gone through the Senate; the government cannot seem to accomplish that, so those agents do not know if they would need to have a vote or whether a card check is going to work. There is a lot of legal uncertainty.
We have been saying for a long time that the government needs to act on Bill C-4 and get it done. It needs to act on Bill C-7 and get it done. Otherwise, the government is risking getting into a situation where people start to act in the current legal context and then the rug is pulled out from underneath their feet, and all of a sudden the rules that they were organizing and applying under are not the same rules that their application is being treated by.
That is exactly the situation that is developing. It was not hard to see or imagine that would happen. It is a real shame that we have reached this point. The government needs to do a better job of extricating itself from this, lest it be perceived as being partisan in an area where it really ought not to be.
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
2017-05-16 12:23 [p.11248]
Mr. Speaker, I noted in the speech by my colleague from Don Valley West that he used, with respect to the management rights clause, the words “more targeted” and not “more limited”. That is an important difference. We on this side of the House are still trying to get our heads around exactly how the RCMP commissioner's right to maintain an effective operation is defined and how broad a scope that right actually gives him. It is not defined anywhere else, as far as we know.
Perhaps as a member of the governing party and supporter of the bill, the member for Don Valley West has some information. New Democrats are concerned that when he talks about RCMP members being able to bring their concerns to the table in good faith, have management hear them, and then make a decision about what they think constitutes effective operations of the force, it will be a little like the Liberals listening to Canadians and saying, “You guys can say what you want. We will come to town halls”, and then doing what they want.
I cite electoral reform as an example: Canadians had the right to consult, and the Liberals listened and heard, and then did whatever they wanted. In fact, in this case they completely contradicted the testimony we heard at committee and everything else.
We do not want RCMP management to have the right to behave as the Liberals do on issues that matter to Canadians; we want to make sure that something effective can come out of negotiations at the table, and we are not convinced that we are there.
What exactly does it mean to give the RCMP commissioner the right to ensure the effective operation of the force, and where is that defined? If we could be pointed to the document, that would be great.
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
2017-05-16 13:01 [p.11253]
Mr. Speaker, we have heard a number of times from the government that we have had ample time to debate this issue. The Liberals have said that we have had 16 hours of debate on this legislation. What I find interesting about that claim is that it has a presumption buried in it, which is that the conversation that happens in the House is simply for the benefit of the Liberals, and they listen only when they want. They can leave and come up with their answer, and that is what we have to deal with.
The conversation that happens in Parliament is not just for the benefit of government legislative drafters. It is for Parliament, with the idea being that Parliament might want to weigh in and make some changes. The idea that we have been debating the content of this motion for 16 hours, or whatever number the government wants to use, is false. I wonder if my hon. colleague wants to speak to the veracity of that claim.
I mentioned some issues earlier, and the member has mentioned some others, around how the grievance procedure is going to work, whether it is consistent with the CRCC recommendations that came out yesterday, and how exactly we are going to define the scope of the commissioner's power to maintain effective operations. These are all things we do not know and we are not part of the debate, to my memory. Perhaps the member has a different memory of events. Those were part of the original debate on Bill C-7, so there is genuinely new material for us to study and discuss to make sure we get this right, as the government claims, in the House anyway, that it would like to do.
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
2017-05-12 12:37 [p.11154]
Mr. Speaker, I thought I heard the parliamentary secretary say, although something may have been lost in translation, that Bill C-7 originally passed the House on June 21. I am sure she may have said, or she meant to say, that it passed in the House on May 30 and it was sent back to the House by the other place on June 21. That means it is about 11 months since we have known the product of the deliberations of the other place.
It has been a very eventful 11 months with respect to the organizing drive for RCMP members. There was a lot of time before April 5 when the first application for certification was made by a prospective bargaining agent. The legal uncertainty created by the lack of an answer to the amendments proposed by the Senate has made it very difficult for those prospective bargaining agents to know what the rules are. Now we are faced with the situation that a bargaining unit has applied to represent only members in Quebec, while Bill C-7 proposes one national bargaining unit.
Could the parliamentary secretary shed some light on why it took the government so long to come up with a relatively simple response to the Senate amendments? Does she think it was worth the confusion that this has created for prospective agents and the challenges they face now?
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
2017-05-12 12:45 [p.11155]
Mr. Speaker, I want to return to the answer from the parliamentary secretary to my earlier question about the 11-month delay between getting the amendments from the other place and the government's response tabled last night.
She said she was very proud that the Liberals took the time to study this legislation and come up with an appropriate response to the Senate amendments. However, the Senate amendments were consistent with amendments presented at committee during the House of Commons process. At that time, the government said that we had to rush to pass the legislation or the sky was going to fall. It used time allocation to push the bill through the House of Commons. Therefore, I am wondering why it then took almost a year to get this response back to the House. What were the Liberals doing in those 11 months?
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
2017-05-12 13:07 [p.11158]
Mr. Speaker, it will come as no surprise to the member that on the principle of the card check, we have a serious disagreement, but we will let that lie. We have spent a fair bit of time on that in the debate on both this bill and Bill C-4.
There is a practical issue when it comes to a secret ballot vote for certification for RCMP members, which is that RCMP members are spread across the country. Many live in rural and remote communities. Some are posted internationally.
To organize a new union with very little experience, plus management that is not used to dealing with the unionized culture, plus a government that has not seen a certification within the public service for a very long time, and to organize a vote that has the reliability and integrity members would expect to make sure that their votes are counted, becomes very difficult. With the card check system, it is much easier to canvas members as to whether they want a union.
I am wondering if the member would support the government hiring a third party, with knowledge and experience providing resources, to ensure that a vote was conducted as it should be and that all members, wherever they were posted in the country or the world, got that ballot and had it safely returned, to ensure that there was integrity in the process. Would he agree to support the government in resourcing that vote if the secret ballot vote were upheld?
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
2017-05-12 13:27 [p.11161]
Mr. Speaker, I am really glad to finally get a chance to weigh in again on the Bill C-7 debate. It has been a very long wait, so it is good to see that the process is back in action.
As I mentioned in some of my questions previously on this bill, it is a bit of a mystery to me, given the content of the government's opinion with respect to the amendments coming from the other place, why it essentially took 11 months to get back to this place, particularly when previously, in the debate last spring, the government was very anxious to move the bill through the House.
At that time, the government made arguments essentially to the effect that the sky would fall if we did not get these amendments in place. Of course, we know now that the sky did not fall. What did happen was that it created a significant period, still ongoing, of legal uncertainty for prospective bargaining agents. That has made it very difficult for them to be able to organize properly.
We are now in a situation, as of the beginning of April, where there are two applicant now, one to represent RCMP members across the country, which would be consistent with what is in Bill C-7, but because Bill C-7 is not law, and again I repeat that is due to delays on the government's part, having had amendments from the other place as early as June 21 of last year, there is also an application from an association to represent members from Quebec alone. If Bill C-7 passes in its current form, that would not be allowed.
Because of dithering on the Liberal side with respect to getting this done, and the companion legislation Bill C-4 as well, which gets rid of some bills from the previous Parliament affecting certification and decertification of unions, we are now in a real mess.
I think the government risks the perception, at least, of interfering in an ongoing certification process, because it is now trying to advance legislation which, had it passed earlier, there would be no question about it and there would be no problem. Now, because there is an application for regional representation within the RCMP, the government may be perceived by some as taking sides as to which organization should represent members in Quebec or any other region of the province that has an organization apply to represent either members of a certain province or certain region in the meantime.
That is why it was really important, as the government itself argued last spring, to get this legislation through. That is why we in the NDP were happy to help move that legislation through and work with the government to meet its timeline, while nevertheless improving the legislation, for instance, by taking out the needless and prejudicial exclusions on bargaining that were included in the original part of the legislation, and which the other place saw fit to remove.
Now the government is indicating that maybe it thinks it is not a bad idea to get rid of those, although it is replacing them with some other language. As the member for Brandon—Souris indicated, we only saw notice of that motion yesterday late in the evening. It is early to try to provide detailed comment on that.
Mr. Speaker, I will resume my comments on Tuesday, when hopefully I will have been able to take the time to examine the response in more detail.
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
2016-11-23 15:17 [p.7130]
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to table a petition, signed by RCMP members and their families, calling on the government to fix Bill C-7 and remove the exclusion of bargaining items they fought very hard in court to get the right to bargain for.
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
2016-05-30 12:57 [p.3691]
Mr. Speaker, it has been a pleasure to work with the hon. member as Bill C-7 works its way through Parliament, even though we do not always agree.
I would like to pick up on a theme that was in his speech and also in the remarks of the parliamentary secretary earlier. Collective bargaining is not the only place that workplace safety and health issues get meted out. As the parliamentary secretary noted earlier, there are places with collective bargaining where workplace issues still arise. I want to address that, because it is a bit of a sleight of hand. While it is a fair point, it does not really get at the essence of what we need to be discussing when it comes to Bill C-7.
Of course workplace issues still arise in workplaces governed by collective agreements. The point of the agreement is to have a framework to decide how to deal with those issues when they come up. It is wrong to say that because there are still workplace issues at places with collective agreements that workplaces do not need collective agreements, which is really the pared down version of the argument we heard from the parliamentary secretary. A version of that we heard in the member's remarks.
Could the member speak to the fact that collective agreements are a tool and an important way to address workplace safety and health issues and that as Bill C-7 exists, if we take away the exclusions, there are still a lot of very reasonable layers of protection for management? Issues go to binding arbitration, the arbitrator is required to consider the unique role of the RCMP as a national police force, as well as the stated budgetary policies of the government.
My point is that there is a lot of protection for management in Bill C-7 without the exclusions, so why would we, as a Parliament, want to prejudge the reasonableness of the proposals and the commitment of RCMP members and their bargaining agent to the institution and not allow them to even bring those forward?
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