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Monday, May 30, 2016

Emblem of the House of Commons

House of Commons Debates



Monday, May 30, 2016

Speaker: The Honourable Geoff Regan

    The House met at 11 a.m.



[Private Members' Business]



National Strategy for Safe Disposal of Lamps Containing Mercury Act

     He said: Mr. Speaker, I am proud and delighted to rise today to speak to Bill C-238, a national strategy for the safe disposal of lamps containing mercury act.
    First I would like to thank my constituents of Dartmouth—Cole Harbour for having faith in me to effect real change and to make their voices heard in Ottawa. It is an honour to come here and work hard on their behalf to create a better environment for Canadians.
    My private member's bill calls upon our Minister of Environment and Climate Change to open a dialogue and work with our provinces and territories to develop a robust national strategy ensuring that lamps containing mercury are safely disposed of.


    We know that mercury is toxic.


    However, Canadians are dumping toxic mercury into landfills daily.
    I am thankful to the members who have seconded my bill, and I am truly honoured by the kind words I have received from members across the country. I am also encouraged by their feedback and their eagerness to protect Canada's environment.
    I am touched that the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands approached me early on to jointly second the bill. I commend her environmental leadership and passion to work across party lines for the greater good. This is not about individuals; it is about protecting Canada as a whole. Canadians expect us to work together and find solutions together.
    Private members' bills are often deeply personal. In 2012, I represented the Burnside Industrial Park in Dartmouth. Burnside is home to hundreds of innovative businesses and manufacturers, and it is the largest industrial park in eastern Canada. We have world leaders in solar technology. We have businesses contributing to shipbuilding. We even have research happening daily on the development of a Tesla battery.
    It was during this period that I toured Dan-x Recycling. Dan-x is located in my riding of Dartmouth—Cole Harbour and is committed to ensuring that all mercury-bearing light bulbs are diverted from landfills and properly recycled. During my tour, I asked the normal questions that one would ask. I asked what the regulations are for end-of-life mercury light bulbs. I was shocked to hear that there were none. In light of the fact that there were no regulations, I began working within our municipality to, at the very least, divert the bulbs used in city-owned buildings. We had no enforcement measures to ensure that folks properly disposed of or recycled CFL bulbs. I was told that it had always been expected that with the introduction of CFL bulbs and the continued widespread commercial use of fluorescent bulbs that regulations would soon follow. This is the inspiration for Bill C-238.
    The issue of keeping mercury out of our waterways and off our land matters to me as a parent. Like many folks, I want to leave this world a better place for our children and for future generations. That is why I immediately joined the municipal environment committee when I became a councillor for the Halifax Regional Municipality. It is why I am thrilled to now sit on the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development with our federal government.
    It was Benjamin Franklin who said that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. It was true back then, and it is as true now. Remediation of land and water is costly, and when preventative measures can be taken, it makes the most sense.
    I would like to thank our previous federal government and my colleagues from across the floor for taking measures to reduce the use of inefficient incandescent bulbs and helping Canadians embrace energy-efficient, compact fluorescent light bulbs and other lamp technology.
    As with an ecosystem, even one small positive change often acts as a catalyst, setting off a chain reaction. For commercial purposes, fluorescent lamps have been popular for some time. However, CFL bulbs, as I mentioned, have gained in popularity since legislative changes to bulb efficiency standards were announced.
    In 2014, a Statistics Canada report showed that three-quarters of total households reported using compact fluorescent lights. With so many Canadians using efficient compact fluorescent bulbs, we must ensure their safe disposal.
    We warn consumers to step out of the room if a mercury bearing bulb breaks, but we do very little when Canadians dump these bulbs into our landfills every day.


    Mercury is dangerous and toxic.


    We are talking about an element that causes severe health problems, birth defects, and even death.
     Commercial fluorescent bulbs alone contain 22 milligrams of mercury. Sources state that it takes only 0.5 milligrams of mercury to pollute 180 tonnes of water. One small CFL light bulb contains between 0.17 milligrams and 3.6 milligrams of mercury. It might not sound like a lot, but with more than three-quarters of Canadians using these bulbs, it really adds up.
    The Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment reported that waste lamps, whether broken or intact, contribute about 1,150 kilograms of mercury to landfills in Canada each year. That is 1,150 kilograms of mercury with the potential to poison our water and lands.
    Mercury has the ability to undergo long range transport. That means that mercury deposited into a Halifax landfill could theoretically redeposit somewhere in northern Canada.
    It is our responsibility to show real environmental leadership and protect Canadians whenever we can. We must take responsibility and protect future generations from this needless pollution. We can no longer pass the buck. We must work together and act now.



    Solutions to this problem already exist.


     As I mentioned, my private member's bill was inspired by an amazing and innovative facility in my riding of Dartmouth—Cole Harbour. It recycles every bit of a fluorescent lamp. These bulbs are made of glass, mercury, lead oxide, and phosphorous powder. This facility separates and reuses the glass in the production of new bulbs. The metal is melted down and reused by metal recycling facilities. It even processes and recycles the phosphorus powder that contains the toxic mercury.
    Facilities like this exist across Canada. The member for Edmonton Strathcona has a facility in her riding that recycles these toxic mercury-bearing bulbs, as do the ridings of Brantford—Brant, Cambridge, Dorval—Lachine—LaSalle, and Delta. These companies are focusing on a green economy, on clean technology. It is what we as a government have been talking about for the past six months. Investing in clean tech makes sense. Just look at these entrepreneurial ventures that have the ability to take this issue and turn it into something positive. We must encourage those with environmental and entrepreneurial spirit, like those who have established the facilities I have mentioned. My bill complements investment into the green economy. Bill C-238 has the potential to help grow this industry. We all know that when industry grows, so does the number of jobs.
    Canadians are investing millions of dollars in the municipal landfills across the country. Whenever possible, we must divert recyclables from landfills. It makes dollars and it makes sense. These particular recyclables may be dangerous, but they are valuable when correct measures are taken. Light bulb recycling facilities, like the one in my riding of Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, employ Canadians while providing a valuable environmental service. That is what we mean by a “clean economy”.
    As I mentioned, solutions to this problem exist. Many provinces may lack CFL end-of-life strategies, but others are showing true environmental leadership. The Province of British Columbia is a fine example of leading the way and showing that successful models do exist. Notably, British Columbia's LightRecycle outreach program has diverted over 12.5 million lighting products from B.C. landfills since 2010. Its statistics are outstanding and extremely encouraging. This model gives us a hint of what we can achieve across the country. With a national strategy, we are merely currently scratching the surface. In 2010, only around 10% of British Columbia's mercury lighting was safely disposed of through this program. However, in 2013, that number skyrocketed to 74%.
    I am not here to tell the provinces and territories what to do and how to do it. Although this particular program and model is encouraging, it is important to note that Bill C-238 does not put demands on the provincial and territorial governments. Bill C-238 is the first step in ensuring that mercury-bearing light bulbs are diverted from our landfills.
    Bill C-238 calls for a conversation. It is about creating a dialogue and encouraging our provincial and territorial governments to collaborate from coast to coast to coast.
    Canada is transitioning towards a green economy, and I believe Bill C-238 complements our government's firm belief that a clean environment and a strong economy go hand in hand.
    A problem like mercury in landfills from consumer waste takes real environmental leadership to solve. I believe a robust national strategy, with positive collaboration between our federal government and our provinces and territories, can ensure the safe disposal of mercury-bearing lamps. It is time to expect our provinces, municipalities, cities, and towns to make bold moves in the right direction.



    We need to work together.


    We need to work together with consistency across our country to protect Canadians from mercury.
    I strongly believe that a national strategy for the safe disposal of mercury-bearing lamps is a bright idea and provides strong environmental leadership to protect our waterways and our land. This is a government that cares about the environment, but, more so, Canada is a country that deeply cares about the world we leave for future generations.
    Together we can encourage our federal government to create an open dialogue with our provinces and territories to develop a strong national strategy for the safe disposal of mercury-bearing lamps. This is about fostering a discussion. As such, I look forward to continued feedback from members of the House.
    I encourage all of my colleagues in this House to support Bill C-238. Why? Because we are all in this together. Every single one of our ridings across Canada is affected by this problem. With Bill C-238's federal environmental leadership, we can work together to leave this world a better place for future generations.
    Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the invitation to engage in the discussion and debate on this. Like most bills that come before this House, one would expect that there would be comprehensive consultations with our provincial and municipal partners. We would also expect that a costing would take place to determine the costs of a new initiative to the taxpayers of this country.
    I would ask my friend, who is a member of the environmental committee, of which I am also a part, and who does good work there, whether he has already conducted consultations with the provinces and territories to determine how far they are implicated in this and whether they support the bill. Second, has he done a costing of what this measure would entail in terms of costs to the Canadian taxpayer?
    Mr. Speaker, as my friend said, we are on the environment committee together.
    There have been no discussions at this point. This is the beginning of the process. This is where we would start the consultation when and if we get the bill passed.
    I want to point out that the idea of moving forward on this is more of an opportunity than a cost. We would be potentially hiring Canadians to work. I do not want to presuppose an outcome of what this would look like, but if we did go that route, we would be hiring Canadians across the country to work in these facilities.
    We have already embraced recycling depots across the country as a way to handle our natural resources and our resources. This is something I would see as a potentially large job creator across our country. In fact, it would benefit the economy. As to potential costs, there are no costs in a discussion. There is no cost in a consultation. This would be something that would facilitate an increase in jobs across the country when we do come forward with a national strategy.
    Mr. Speaker, I thank my friend from Dartmouth—Cole Harbour for his piece of legislation.
    To reply somewhat to my friend from the Conservatives, I think there is always a cost to action. There is also a cost to inaction. The cost of inaction on dealing with dangerous pollutants is severe and can be quite life threatening, and certainly costs our health care system a lot of money if people are exposed to these chemicals.
    We have consulted in B.C. about this issue, and certainly in my riding. One of the gaps, which is significant, for his initiative to become successful is around education. A lot of Canadian consumers often do not know and appreciate what is in their consumer products. We find that some of the federal regulations around what goes into our products are somewhat weak. I have not yet read it in the hon. member's bill, but I am wondering if there are any education components to it. Simply implementing the requirements for recycling initiatives are good on their own, but without consumers actually bringing the product to the right place at the right time, all is for naught.
    The hon. member has contemplated calling for a kind of national strategy. However, has he also called for some sort of national education process so that consumers and Canadians can be better informed, not only about the products they choose, but what to do with them once they are done with them?


    Mr. Speaker, I cannot imagine a national strategy not having an educational component. However, this bill does not speak to what the national strategy would look like. It does not offer suggestions. It is a start of a conversation and the beginning of dialogue.
    However, I will say that I have talked to hundreds of people across the country about this, and almost to a person, nobody knew that there were recycling facilities for mercury-bearing light bulbs across this country; nobody had contemplated that. It did not seem like a big deal to throw it in the garbage can.
    Therefore, there is already a move afoot. There is already a conversation being had around the country right now because of the instigation of this bill and the potential for this national strategy.
    Again, I would comment on the incredible work being done in British Columbia on recycling light bulbs. They are truly leading in the nation.
    Mr. Speaker, I am grateful to my colleague on the environment committee for bringing forward this initiative. I think he would admit that this legislation builds on our previous Conservative government's actions to control mercury within our environment in Canada.
    A lot of Canadians do not realize that Canada does not mine mercury. Canada is arguably the richest country in the world when it comes to natural resources, but mining mercury is not one of those activities. Ninety-five per cent of all the mercury deposited in Canada comes from foreign sources, which is why our former Conservative government was active in negotiating the Minamata Convention on Mercury, an international convention that essentially calls for tough measures to reduce mercury emissions. That was in 2013.
    In November 2014, we followed that up with the products containing mercury regulations, which essentially prohibit the broad import and manufacture of products containing mercury, with limited exemptions. These regulations are expected to reduce by somewhere in the order of 21 tonnes the mercury that will be emitted into our environment between 2015 and 2032.
    I appreciate the member's effort to build upon our previous government's work. This is important. The work we do at committee is not only about the environment but about sustainability, the long-term balancing of the environment with our economic objectives. We want to make sure that, as the Liberal government has said so often and as we used to say, the environment and the economy have to go hand in hand.
    Some of the measures we are undertaking at the environment committee include a study, which we have now completed, on the Federal Sustainable Development Act. We are undertaking right now a study on conservation, which includes parkland and marine conservation areas. We are also undertaking a review of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. All of these serve Canada's interests to make sure that, as we move forward, we continue to make our environment safer, cleaner, and healthier for Canadians to live in.
    Bill C-238, a national strategy for the safe disposal of lamps containing mercury, contains three elements. The first would establish national standards for the safe disposal of mercury-containing lamps. The second would establish guidelines regarding facilities for safe disposal of these lamps. The third would create a plan to promote public awareness of the importance of safe disposal of these kinds of lamps. Right now these lamps end up in our landfills, and the mercury leaches into our soil and our water sources. Virtually all Canadians would agree that is something we do not want to see happen.
    This bill attempts to establish a strategy. I would ask the member why we need a national strategy. As our former Conservative government moved forward to address the presence of mercury within our environment, we acted. We did not simply establish strategies and talk shops where we prolonged any action on these measures, but we acted. We signed the Minamata Convention. We moved forward with regulations on mercury and mercury emissions. We do not need a formal strategy to get this done. The Liberal government has within its full power the ability to move forward with its own legislation and to move forward with its own regulations and policies that would build upon the work that our former Conservative government did in this area.
    Some national strategies that have been presented are worthwhile, especially the ones addressing many of the health challenges still present in Canada. However a strategy is simply a call to develop a plan, whereas moving forward with action goes to the very substance of what we hope to achieve.


    The bill would also require this strategy to be tabled in the House within two years and then reviewed every five years to make sure it is in keeping with new strategies for the disposal of mercury-containing lamps.
    By the way, I am going to support this bill going to committee, because I want to continue to build on the work that the previous Conservative government achieved, to make sure we continue to clean up our environment of mercury contamination. However, the challenge is to make sure any initiative or strategy is cost efficient and does not impose additional undue tax burden on Canadian taxpayers or red tape that ties up businesses, provinces, and municipalities.
    The member actually admitted in his opening comments that the provinces and municipalities are implicated in this strategy. Much of the work and cost in implementing this strategy would actually be done at the provincial and municipal levels, which is where these recycling and disposal facilities would be located. Conservatives, of course, are always concerned with what kinds of additional costs will be imposed on Canadians.
    As a Conservative government, we were very proud of a record of having reduced Canada's tax burden to the lowest level in over 50 years, and Canadians welcomed that. They do not want to pay more taxes, but they understand that we want to keep our environment clean.
    I looked at a few pieces of legislation similar to this one that have already been presented in the House and to which I had a chance to speak. Motion No. 45 required that all infrastructure projects at the municipal level that are over $500 million in value would have to go through a full climate change impact analysis to determine what the upstream and downstream greenhouse gas emission implications would be for those projects.
    The member who brought this private member's bill forward suggested that projects at the municipal level, chosen to meet the needs of municipalities and provinces, would actually be seen through a lens of climate change rather than for the purposes for which those projects were being built and planned. This would impose huge additional costs on our local governments, additional red tape, and delays, and it would discourage the municipalities from moving forward with critical infrastructure in their communities.
    The same thing was true for Bill C-227, a private member's bill, which would place a requirement on contractors for projects within the federal realm. In other words, if a building contractor wanted to bid on a federal building project, the contractor would have to go through a community benefit analysis. On top of all the other red tape government has already imposed on those wishing to do business with government, it now wants an additional community benefit analysis, which again would add additional costs, more red tape, and increased costs of projects, because that would have to be built into the bid price.
    On top of that, it would complicate the federal bidding process, by adding more and more red tape to the process, when in fact these projects should be bid based on best value for the taxpayers' dollar, or in other words, the best value for the best price. Therefore, Conservatives have a right to be skeptical about the bill before us. Is it going to be another example of Liberals' overreaching, adding additional cost to taxpayers?
    In both of these cases, of course, as much as the motives behind these initiatives are laudable, the motion and this bill would actually pose additional regulatory burdens on Canadians, and that is my fear with this strategy. Quite frankly, the member could have moved forward with simply asking the government to move forward with regulations in consultation with the provinces and municipalities to provide the appropriate recycling and disposal policies across the country. For whatever reason, the member did not do that.
    Hopefully, this matter will be fully discussed at committee. I will certainly be asking the member questions about costs, regulatory burdens, and exactly what this would mean for Canadian taxpayers. I look forward to the discussion, and I know the member and I are going to work very closely to make sure this is done in a way that is respectful of taxpayers and also addresses the very real concerns of mercury within our environment.


    Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate my friend and colleague from Dartmouth—Cole Harbour for his excellent presentation and his private member's bill, and also for having secured the support of the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands and the express support from the last speaker to bring the bill to committee. That really—
    I have a point of order, Mr. Speaker. There are no questions asked during private member's business outside of the mover.
    I will consult with the table and get back to the members shortly.
    My apologies to all, there was an error here and I seem to have made it. We will resume debate.
    Mr. Speaker, I was worried for a moment. I am sure it was a good question, too. We will have to find a way to get it on the record. Perhaps our friend can offer a speech on the bill.
    New Democrats will be supporting Bill C-238. We think it would go some measure toward doing some important things for our environment, which Canadians are rightly concerned with. It is a deeply held belief and value by Canadians that as we go about our daily lives, feed our kids, light our homes, and go to work, we do not want to be doing harm.
    At the heart of the legislation is a notion around a principle that is often not applied when we pass legislation and laws in this place. It is a notion, which has been long-standing, called the precautionary principle. It suggests that before we go out and bring a new product or chemical into the world, we should look at all the best available evidence to understand if there are any impacts or exposure to the environment that would bring risk to the environment or the health of Canadians.
    Clearly around issues of mercury or any of the highly classified toxins, as we innovate and try to get that green economy, products that use less energy, that are less wasteful in a whole bunch of different ways, it is important to take the full life-cycle costs and the full understanding of what it is that we are buying, producing in our factories, and bringing in from overseas.
    The bill would move us in that direction. However, there is a couple of concerns that we have but they are concerns that can be addressed as the bill moves through. One is around the element of education. We know that changing the way we recycle and use products is important, but a key element in that is that consumers have full knowledge and full participation in whatever program we are trying to initiate.
    The bill is interesting in that the federal government does not really have jurisdiction to direct provinces, territories, and municipalities to do one thing or another with their waste streams. We can offer some guidance. We can have some encouragement. We can bring in laws that restrict the use of certain products.
     However, in terms of recycling, in terms of the reusing of certain products, what the bill seeks to do is three things. One of them is set up a national strategy. We know, and we have been told, that Environment Canada is engaged in producing such a strategy. This would be encouragement for the department to get on with it.
    It is not news that mercury and other toxins are highly lethal, not just to humans but to a lot of things that humans care about, like the planet, fish, birds, and all the rest of that. It is curious that we have gone so long, and there have been some delays by previous governments in introducing legislation. My understanding is that as we have been exporting a lot of this harmful material south of the border into their recycling facilities, there is not a lot of enthusiasm to continue to have that stream going to the United States and other countries. It is a good principle that Canada takes care of its own garbage and pollution. This seems like a basic understanding and value that we would all share.
    I suppose, as my friend from Dartmouth—Cole Harbour has said, this is the beginning of a conversation with provinces and territories. In my experience, they sometimes like to have that conversation in advance of legislation being brought forward, but it is a big task for a single member of Parliament to take on, to try to engage with all the provinces and territories. However, that is going to be vital. Oftentimes if our partners at the provincial and territorial level feel like an initiative is also their idea, they are much more enthusiastic about participating and going through the process. If they feel like it is Ottawa imposing an idea, that can have the opposite reaction.
    It is curious, simply because when we have dealt with other issues from the government, it has had very long and strenuous consultation processes, sometimes to the point of frustration. John Manley used to talk about constipation through consultation. There can be a tendency within governments that when it is not sure how to proceed, it continues to consult and consult and never really does anything. Ottawa loves to study things.
    I am encouraged that there is an initiative in here that says we should go forward and do something. There is maybe going to have to be some extra energy put toward the consultation side, particularly at the municipal level. For those of us in the House who have engaged in municipal government, they have very few resources, and by that I mean money, to deal with a lot of issues. Their budgets are often strained. They cannot, as the federal government does and the previous one did, run massive deficits. It is just not available to municipal governments.


    One of the first questions I am going to get from councillors, town councillors, and mayors is, “How do we pay for this?” If this is going to end up on their bottom line, they want to be able to participate and do it right, but they also want to ensure they do not bear all the costs. That is a completely fair understanding of the situation.
    We also see in the bill that there would be a report-back mechanism, and I believe it would be in two years. There would be an ability for us to have a sense of where the strategy is going and whether it is working. One of the things that I would encourage is that we would have some clear metrics designed, if they are not already in place in the legislation, so that reporting back is not anecdotal or subjective but is quite objective and fact-based. What is the level of mercury hitting the landfills right now? What is the expectation of the legislation in terms of reducing that pollution? Are we able to achieve those targets, and if we are off, why are we off? That accountability is important to Canadians because they have too often heard large ambitions from governments that are left relatively vague. When it comes time to see whether the thing worked, there is no way to actually hold government to account because the measures were never put in place.
    My friend from Dartmouth—Cole Harbour talked about the need for environmental leadership, and we agree that for far too long, on the broader issue of the environment, the federal government has been absent or heavy on the rhetoric but very light on the action. Probably no issue underlines that fact more than the issue of climate change, where we have seen, in fact, a lot of leadership from the municipal, provincial, and territorial levels but an absence of that here in Parliament where it has been a frustrating 30-year process of trying to deal with the issue of climate change and carbon pollution into our atmosphere.
    As my friend from the Liberal side noted earlier, some will come to this debate and say that it is only costs. This is a cost to consumers. It is going to be a cost to the economy. It is going to hurt the creation of jobs and only cost consumers and taxpayers. I would argue that this is an example where, if we look at the full cost of what is happening, there is a cost already being borne on municipalities and provinces, in trying to deal with these toxins, like mercury. There is a cost to consumers and Canadians directly through their health care.
    I was just with a friend this past weekend, when I was back home in Smithers, who is dealing with mercury contamination issues, yet his exposure to them was never through his work. The doctors have looked back and realized that it was from playing with old discarded light bulbs, as many of us did as kids playing Star Wars and busting them up with no knowledge that we were being exposed to something like mercury, which can bioaccumulate. That means it can continue to stay in our systems decades after exposure. My friend is facing serious health consequences now. It may be through diet, which is also a concern, but it was actually just through exposure as a young person.
    All this is to say that when addressing any issue and looking at any product, any chemical, any toxin, we look at the full life-cycle of the product from cradle to grave. We look at how we are taking care and being responsible consumers, and how it is when the government puts forward legislation it is seen through a lens that is clearly understood by Canadians and is accountable to Canadians.
    This is not what this bill is, but I would greatly encourage the current government to apply the same principles it has in the legislation to things like climate change and reviewing industrial projects, such as mines and pipelines, so that we have a clear accounting for what that precautionary principle is and we have a clear accounting of what the true costs are of any government decision. It would not be some vague subjective notion but something that people could hold the government to account on.
     If they are going to approve an oil pipeline like Kinder Morgan to Vancouver, what are the Liberals actually taking into account? This would not be some sort of subjective “we looked at climate change”, but what the actual contribution upstream and downstream is, and what the full life-cycle cost of any decision that we make is. Canadians make these decisions all the time. If they put funds into their kids' education program, they try to understand what the full costs and benefits are. As a government, we should run ourselves as a household, and as many families do, understand what the full cost of any activity or inactivity might be.
    I thank my friend from Nova Scotia for his bill.


    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today to the bill introduced by the member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, which proposes the development of a national strategy for the safe disposal of lamps that contain mercury. I certainly commend him for his efforts in this regard. The lamps referred to in the bill are light bulbs such as florescent tubes or compact florescent light bulbs, which are known commercially as lamps.
    Mercury, as many of us know, is a potent neurotoxin that can cause damage to the brain, central nervous system, kidneys, and lungs, and is particularly damaging to the development of the human fetus, infants, and young children. It is a chemical of global concern due to its high toxicity and its ability to travel long distances in the atmosphere. It has impacts on human health and the environment in places far from its source of release, such as Canada's Arctic. There, mercury levels in wildlife have been increasing over the past 30 years.
    While the effects of mercury are most significant in Canada's Arctic and pose a particular risk to populations who rely heavily on the consumption of predatory fish and traditional food, the impacts are evident in all regions of Canada. The bill could make an important contribution to reducing releases of mercury and can build on other actions Canada has taken domestically and internationally.
    Domestically, the federal government has undertaken several targeted policy and program initiatives to reduce emissions and releases. Under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999, the government is taking action to address the health and environmental risks of mercury, including mercury from lamps.
    For example, the products containing mercury regulations prohibit the manufacture and import of products containing mercury, with some exemptions for essential products that have no technically or economically viable alternatives, for example, certain medical and research applications, and dental amalgam. In the case of lamps, the regulations limit the amount of mercury the lamps can contain and require labelling to inform consumers of the presence of mercury, safe handling procedures, and options for end-of-life management and recycling.
     In addition, in April of this year, the government published a proposed code of practice for the environmentally sound management of end-of-life lamps containing mercury. The code of practice provides guidance on environmental best practices for managing these lamps at their end of life. It also includes information on diversion and end-of-life management options for areas where access to recycling and disposal facilities is limited, such as northern and remote communities.
    The proposed code of practice is open for comment until June 6, 2016, and the government plans to publish the final code of practice by the end of 2016.
    In addition to federal measures to address mercury in lamps, there are federal regulations aimed at other activities, which also reduce mercury emissions and releases. For example, federal regulations limiting carbon dioxide emissions from the coal-fired electricity sector have an added benefit of reducing the mercury released into the atmosphere. Regulations on effluent from metal mines include limits on the release of mercury to water.
    In March of this year, the government also published the first national evaluation of mercury in the Canadian environment, called the Canadian Mercury Science Assessment. During the period covered by the assessment, which was 1990 to 2010, Canadian emissions of mercury to the air decreased by 85%. Despite the decreases in Canadian emissions, however, ambient levels of mercury in the air in Canada have only decreased by 18% on average from 1995 to 2010. This is because over 95% of the mercury that results from human activity and gets deposited in Canada comes from foreign sources: approximately 40% from East Asia, 17% from the United States, 8% from Europe, and 6% from South Asia.
    These foreign sources of mercury include emissions to air from industrial sources in other countries. They also include the use of mercury in small-scale gold mining, and in various products and processes, as well as from the disposal of wastes containing mercury and the re-emission of mercury from contaminated sites. While Canadian mercury emissions are expected to continue to decrease due to our ongoing efforts, global emissions are predicted to increase, in part due to the growth of coal-fired power plants in China and India.
    In light of the impact of global activities, Canada continues to be a strong proponent of international action on mercury and the government is working toward ratifying the Minamata Convention on Mercury, a global treaty to protect human health and the environment from human-generated emissions and releases of mercury and mercury compounds.
     Returning now to the bill being debated, this important initiative would also result in less mercury getting into the environment and will benefit the health of Canadians and the environment.
    Bill C-238 deals with one source of mercury emissions, lamps. The bill would put an obligation on the Minister of Environment and Climate Change to develop and implement a national strategy for the safe disposal of lamps containing mercury. The bill would also require the minister to work in co-operation with partners and stakeholders in order to table a national strategy within two years of the act receiving royal assent by Parliament, or December 31, 2018, whichever is later. Every five years after the national strategy is initially tabled, the minister would report on the effectiveness of the national strategy.


    This private member's bill complements the government's current actions on mercury. The national strategy that would be developed as a result of the bill would facilitate a harmonized approach, focusing on existing gaps to achieve environmental and sound management at end-of-life lamps containing mercury.
    The bill envisages that the minister will seek the support of other governments across the country to develop and implement a national strategy. Responsibility for managing waste is shared among federal, provincial, territorial, and municipal governments.
    The Government of Canada currently regulates international and interprovincial movements of hazardous waste, manages waste on federal lands, and has extensive authorities to regulate toxic substances and products that contain them. Provincial and territorial jurisdictions regulate waste management operations and facilities, and the end-of-life management of products. Municipal governments collect and manage waste for recycling and disposal.
    The development and implementation of the national strategy will also require support and input from industry, environmental groups, municipalities and Indigenous groups. We will need to hear from these stakeholders about what should be included in the national strategy to help advance this important issue.
    We look forward to hearing from all our partners and stakeholders as to what is needed to develop an effective national strategy. It should build on successful programs, such as the work done through the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment, and should address the gaps that exist. We already know what some of those gaps might be, such as a lack of public awareness on the importance of recycling these lamps as well diversion programs for northern and remote communities.
    I am pleased to say that the government is supportive of this bill. We will encourage the committee to do a careful reading of its provisions to ensure that the national strategy does not duplicate efforts already under way and can focus on the gaps that may exist across the country.
    Once again, I would like to thank the member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour for bringing the bill before the House. It will help to focus national attention on the issue. I am confident that when we all work together, we can make a significant difference in addressing the safe disposal of lamps containing mercury.
    Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak in favour of Bill C-238, an act respecting the national strategy for safe disposal of lamps containing mercury, put forward by the member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour. I would also like to congratulate the member on putting forth his first private member's bill in the House.
     Bill C-238 would provide for the House to work in a bipartisan manner to not only pass the legislation, but begin the process of raising awareness and educating Canadians on the safe disposal of light bulbs containing mercury.
     Mercury has the ability to be spread between water, air, and soil, which can significantly and negatively impact human and environmental health. It is well known that mercury is toxic and can cause health problems, including birth defects, rashes, and death. When low quantities are accumulated, they create a risk to mothers and their babies.
     Mercury poisoning can also cause neurological damage, including slurred speech, memory loss, and tremors. The Mad Hatter in Alice in Wonderland did not get eccentric and zany from the exotic tea he was drinking; it was the mercury that led him down the rabbit hole of insanity.
    Bill C-238 prescribes three important elements that need to be considered and supported. Precisely, it would establish national standards for the safe disposal of mercury-containing lamps; guidelines regarding facilities for safe disposal; and would create a plan to promote public awareness of the importance of those lamps being disposed of safely.
    Previously, in 2010, our Conservative government released a risk management strategy for mercury, which proposed to reduce releases of mercury through the products containing certain toxic substances regulations. Supporting the bill is in line with the previous Conservative government's approach to controlling toxic substances that pose a risk to human health. For example, the previous government passed the Canada Consumer Product Safety Act, Bill C-36, in 2010 and banned the use of bisphenol A in baby bottles.
    As the environment is a shared jurisdiction with the provinces and territories, we also must be mindful to not overstep our boundaries as a federal government. I believe, however, the legislation would strike not only the right balance but could lead to a productive partnership on this file.
    I appreciate that the legislation is focused and has a clear purpose as the thrust of the bill is to instruct the environment minister to develop and implement a national strategy for the safe disposal of lamps containing mercury. As it stands, many provinces and municipalities have different approaches to this issue. I believe that best practices can be shared, and when different levels of government work together, we will be able to educate consumers on how to safely dispose of these light bulbs without a considerable cost to the taxpayers.
    In Brandon, Manitoba, the city has taken the approach of allowing our collection point for hazardous goods to be open six days a week, as an example. Furthermore, it has partnerships with hardware stores across the city at which people can drop off hazardous goods. The city communicates on a regular basis with its residents on which goods should not be tossed into the regular garbage pickup to ensure they do not end up in the landfill.
    There are many other examples of municipalities having programs that accept household products that contain mercury. Some have implemented collection programs specifically for fluorescent bulbs, while others collect them as part of their household hazardous waste programs.
    The reason the legislation is timely is many Canadians have fluorescent bulbs in their homes, their businesses, or farm operations. The reason we still use fluorescent bulbs is that they are more energy efficient than incandescent lights. The use of fluorescent lamps in place of incandescent bulbs can reduce energy consumption and in turn keep our electricity bill down. Nonetheless, we must not forget about their negative effect on the environment and on health.
    The knowledge curve on properly educating consumers on how to safely dispose of them needs to be enhanced, and this legislation is a good starting point for that to occur. In fact, I hope the legislation will spur hardware stores, department stores, and just about anyone who sells florescent bulbs to take it upon themselves to share with their customers how to safely dispose of the bulbs and how to take the appropriate measures when a bulb is accidentally broken.


    Moreover, the legislation can provide an opportunity for light bulb manufacturers to review how they package and ship their products to further enhance the safe transport of their products.
    As with all programs and activities in the federal government, it is important to measure the effectiveness of specific initiatives. Far too often governments have good intentions, however, do not have systems in place to see if goals are being met. That is why it is necessary to emphasize that under the bill the Minister of Environment and Climate Change would have to report to Parliament. In particular, under clause 3, the Minister of Environment and Climate Change would be responsible for preparing a report setting out a national strategy and implementing it. Moreover, clause 4 describes the review of the report where within five years of the tabling of the report and every five years after that the minister of environment would set out his or her conclusions and recommendations regarding the national strategy.
    It is imperative that all levels of government work together to keep toxic substances out of Canadian landfills and waterways. I am pleased to highlight that in the member's riding of Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, a company called DAN-X recycles mercury-bearing light bulbs, which is reducing the environmental risk to its landfills. Many members might be interested to know that recyclers can recover the mercury for reuse.
    I am pleased that we have such effective facilities in our country. We need to encourage their growth and success in order to keep our lands and waterways clear of hazardous materials. It is important that all members of the House support the legislation as the associated risks from mercury to our health and the environment are too high.
     I know all Canadians care about our environment, which is why it is so important to involve the provinces, territories, municipalities, and private industries in developing and implementing this national strategy. Working together and supporting each other is the only effective way to make positive changes in our communities, and in Canada as a whole. Together, we can provide strong environmental leadership and can protect our lands and waterways. After all, this is what Canadians expect from us. The time to fulfill this obligation in a tangible way is right now.



    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to discuss Bill C-238, an act respecting the development of a national strategy for the safe disposal of lamps containing mercury. I support this important bill at second reading because it is a good initiative and a step in the right direction.
    The NDP supports all initiatives relating to the sustainable development of our communities. We want to minimize the presence of toxic substances that can threaten the balance and viability of our ecosystems.
    Our record proves that the NDP has always been a leader in environmental protection. We must figure out solutions to the unsafe disposal of the mercury component of bulbs.
    There are three main points in this bill. First, the Minister of Environment and Climate Change must develop and implement a national strategy for the safe disposal of lamps containing mercury. I congratulate my colleague on proposing such a strategy. This should have been done a long time ago, but unfortunately, the Conservative government was not particularly concerned about the environment. This is a step in the right direction.
     Second, the bill calls on the Minister of Environment and Climate Change to work with representatives from the various levels of government, industry, and environmental groups to implement a national strategy for the safe disposal of lamps containing mercury. That is extremely important.
    Later, I will explain why we need to work with the provincial, territorial, and municipal governments, as well as the private companies that make these products. I will explain why we need to address the root of the problem, the creation of this waste.
    Third, the bill calls on the Minister of Environment and Climate Change to monitor and properly assess the effectiveness of the strategy. That is common sense. The NDP has always called for a ban on incandescent light bulbs. We want the government to implement a plan that will make it mandatory to recycle compact fluorescent bulbs. What is more, we want the companies that sell these light bulbs to be subject to a code of practice that is not just voluntary.
    A voluntary code of practice does not ensure the implementation of a robust process. The process cannot be monitored or assessed and so no progress is made. A voluntary code of practice is no longer good enough. We need a code of practice that makes it mandatory for the industry to safely dispose of lamps containing mercury.
    I worked in the environmental field for a number of years, and I think that extended producer responsibility is one of the most important things. Producers cannot just put a product on the market and then wash their hands of it. They need to be responsible for that product from cradle to cradle, from its creation to its recovery or reclamation. That is what is meant by extended producer responsibility.
    It is important to reduce the quantity of waste materials sent for disposal by making companies responsible for the recovery and reclamation of the products that they put on the market and promoting more environmentally friendly products.
     At the manufacturing stage, companies need to think about what will happen to a product at the end of its useful life. They need to think about how its components can be repurposed and how to dispose of it safely. This is known as extended producer responsibility.
    It is important to implement a strategy for the safe disposal of lamps containing mercury, but we need to go even further and implement a national strategy on extended producer responsibility, in order to come up with ways to dispose of all products manufactured in or imported into Canada in a manner that is safe for the environment and for Canadians' health.


    In that respect, I have worked very hard to find ways to improve the overall performance of products before their life cycle ends, specifically in order to minimize waste at the source.
     In fact, the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment has been advocating for standards to reduce the amount of mercury in lamps sold in Canada since 2001. Of course, it is now 2016.
    I congratulate my colleague on his contribution towards creating this national strategy, and I want to assure him of my full support. I will help and encourage him in his efforts. Unfortunately, the Conservatives did nothing on this file for far too long, for nearly a decade in fact, which is really disappointing.
    Many businesses and organizations in Drummond are doing their part, and I would like to highlight one in particular: Ressourcerie Transition.
    On April 22, Earth Day, I visited a number of organizations and industries that work on environmental protection, as well as some organic farms in my riding. One of the organizations I visited was Ressourcerie Transition, which works on the reuse, recovery, and repurposing of products. This is very important.
    There has to be a shift from producing disposable products that end up in our landfills and create major problems in our communities, to coming up with a way to have products that meet conditions for the 4Rs: reduce, reuse, recycle, and reclaim.
    I want to congratulate Ressourcerie Transition on reusing and reclaiming objects and then reselling them to the public.
    The time provided for the consideration of private members' business has now expired, and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the Order Paper.

Government Orders

[Government Orders]


Public Service Labour Relations Act


    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.
    Mr. Speaker, the member talked about how legislation apparently aligns the process with other parts of the public sector.
    The member will know, I think, that every other time there has been certification within the public sector, there has been a secret ballot process. There are allegations that there could be intimidation if there is a secret ballot. I do not understand how that could even work. Even so, is that not particularly unlikely in the public sector?
    Would the member not agree that in order to be consistent with certification processes in other parts of the public sector, there should be assurances in this legislation that there is a secret ballot for the RCMP?
    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.


    Mr. Speaker, one of the things I have noticed in my 12 years in the House of Commons is that everything is an emergency now. We have to get these bills through immediately or we are failing in our duty. The role of Parliament has become increasingly, as the present leader of the Conservative opposition says, an audience or a rubber stamp of bobble heads.
    We are here to do due diligence. Therefore, when I hear the hon. member talk about responding to the court ruling on the rights of RCMP officers and yet I look at the bill and see what is taken out of the collective bargaining rights, I think there are serious concerns that have to be addressed here. The inability to bring forward issues of harassment allegations and the inability to talk about issues of staffing, whether or not a police officer has proper backup, are things that belong within the collective bargaining process. The hon. member tells us not to worry, that there are other manners within the civil service that work well. Well, no they do not work well.
    The problems we have seen with the RCMP, such as fundamental harassment and backup, are issues that have not been dealt with. This is where the collective bargaining process is supposed to be in place. It seems to me that the government is stripping out all those rights in providing a Potemkin process for the RCMP to go through, while not giving it the tools it needs to be in conformity with the courts.
    Why this rush to push this through, when we need to scrutinize the lack of credibility of key parts of the legislation?
    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.
    Mr. Speaker, I am wondering if my colleague the parliamentary secretary could talk more about the real world impact, now that the Supreme Court deadline has in fact passed.
    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.


    Mr. Speaker, I agree with my friend from Timmins—James Bay that, under the Supreme Court B.C. hospitals case and the more recent case specifically with respect to the RCMP, its members have the right to bargain collectively with or without this legislation. The hon. parliamentary secretary makes a good point. However, I am sure that would be avoided if we did not have Bill C-7 in place.
     As the member will know, my biggest concern with Bill C-7, which I find baffling, is that the decision was taken to remove the issue of harassment from the ambit of a possible collective bargaining agreement. We are not requiring that it consider harassment, but why has the government decided that members of the RCMP, employers and employees, should not be able to agree to include harassment in negotiating the collective agreement? I have heard from the hon. Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness that the harassment issue is high on his agenda and that something else will be done. However, just today, Karen Katz, a 27-year veteran of the RCMP, who has been on sick leave with PTSD since 2009, was fired by the RCMP. That does not give me confidence that the institution is taking harassment seriously.
    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—
    Order, please. Resuming debate, the hon. member for Durham.
    Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise for the third time in debate in this House of Commons on Bill C-7.


    I would like to start by sincerely thanking all members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. The men and women of our RCMP are essential to our public safety and security.


    I and many members, in our speeches to Bill C-7, have tried to thank the men and women who wear the uniform for Canada and provide peace and security across our country. As I have said in previous speeches, in many provinces and territories in our vast country, particularly in rural communities of the country, the RCMP members are the only member or front-line element of public safety and security and, in many cases, the only visible extension of the federal Government of Canada. It is appropriate that all members have thanked the RCMP for their tremendous work.
    While Ontario is not a contract jurisdiction for the RCMP, because of our Ontario Provincial Police force, I am also very fortunate to have an RCMP detachment in Bowmanville in my riding, as part of the O Division detachment group. Not only are the men and women of this detachment critical to some of the federal investigations and public safety work done in Ontario by the RCMP, but as I have constantly said, they are also the backbone of our community. These men and women act as coaches of soccer and baseball teams, and they are active in charitable organizations in our community. That is appreciated, and I know members of the RCMP take great pride in not just serving in communities across the country on their postings but in becoming part of those communities. I want to start with a great thanks to them.
    As I have said in previous speeches to Bill C-7, it has been a bit of a journey for this Parliament in response to a Supreme Court decision. In fairness, the government has listened to some of the opposition concerns we have raised, and our public safety committee did some important work on this bill. However, there remain concerns with Bill C-7 among parliamentarians and, most importantly, front-line members of the RCMP. The concerns are particularly with the rushed nature and the lack of consultation with the front-line members of the force. That is why we are here in debate and why the Conservative Party, which has tried to work with the government throughout this process, remains as frustrated as some of the members across the country.
    To remind this House, we are here as a result of the Supreme Court of Canada decision in the Mounted Police Association of Ontario court case that went from lower courts all the way to the Supreme Court and, in fairness, was a decision first considered by the previous Conservative government. That is when the former government provided an outreach program within the RCMP, including a questionnaire to elicit feedback from the front-line members of the RCMP with respect to the unionization of their force. Sadly, that has really been the only substantive consultation done with the men and women on the front line of the force, and that is what brings me here today to continue to have concerns about Bill C-7.
     However, that court case was clear. The Supreme Court of Canada said that the charter right of members under section 2(d) to collective association was violated for men and women of the RCMP by their exclusion from the Public Service Labour Relations Act. The court then gave Parliament a year to come up with a regime for the association or collective bargaining rights of RCMP members.
    That is important because the court gave a year. In fairness to the new government, one of the first acts of the new minister was to ask for a slight extension. However, sadly, that extension of time did not lead to substantive consultation with men and women of the RCMP. That is a bit of a miss. We have had some good debate and, in fairness, the minister, the parliamentary secretary, and the President of the Treasury Board as well have appeared at committee and been part of the debate, and that is appreciated. However, there has not been much direct consultation with the front line, despite that extension of time, and that concerns me.


    It concerns a lot of our members, who have been hearing from men and women across the country with concerns about Bill C-7, particularly in provisions related to sections 40 and 42, which I applaud the government for agreeing to amend, but also with respect to the exclusions from collective bargaining. I will touch on that briefly in my remarks.
     However, it is important, in this final time that I get to speak, to remind the House what the Supreme Court of Canada said. It did not say that the RCMP should just join Unifor, the United Steelworkers, or a large existing labour organization. In fact, the Supreme Court gave direction on two key areas. It said that the right of collective association under section 2(d) of the charter was violated for RCMP members. The two elements the court viewed as being required were employee choice and sufficient independence from management. Those are the two critical parts of that judgment.
    Members will see why these elements led the government to a pragmatic approach, but, really, the lack of consultation has hurt it with the employees themselves who have to make the choice of bargaining agent.
    It is important to note that the Supreme Court of Canada says clearly that section 2(d) of the charter does not protect all elements of association and collective bargaining. In fact, labour models in recent years, going way back to the Wagner model of collective bargaining, and the construct that led to that, and the Rand formula, have been evolving as the tribunals over time were really the guardians of labour law.
    In the advent of the charter, charter protections, particularly around collective bargaining rights, have really usurped the old work done by tribunals. The Supreme Court has said that the RCMP is a very unique quasi-military organization with a chain of command, operational discipline, order constructs, the ability for postings, and the unlimited liability faced by members. It is not a regular job when we allow men and women in uniform in Canada to impinge on the rights of others, and also bear the risk themselves of potential injury or death. This is a very unique role. It is why we acknowledge and appreciate the special work done by the RCMP across this country. However, the Supreme Court of Canada recognized clearly that the unique nature of the RCMP leads to unique needs with respect to a collective organization and unionization. Therefore, the two key elements we have to consider from this decision are employee choice and sufficient independence from management.
    The staff relations program had been in effect since the 1970s, since the RCMP was excluded from the Public Service Labour Relations Act. The program had been the internal human resources function, serving as the conduit between management and the front line.
    Ironically, most of the RCMP members and most of the members of these associations who have been fighting for unionization are RCMP members who have been part of the staff relations program. They saw merit in that. They saw how it functioned well in some manners. However, the Supreme Court determined, and most of the witnesses we heard from determined that there was not sufficient independence from management to safeguard the charter rights of our members. This is why we are here today. It is not like the RCMP had nothing, they had the staff relations program, but the Supreme Court said that the staff relations program was not sufficiently independent from management, which is critical to remember.
    I will predict to the House, and I know the parliamentary secretary probably agrees with me, that many of those staff relations personnel will likely form the leadership of whatever union we eventually see.


    The good thing is, they will take with them that collective knowledge and memory of what has happened before and then they will have more ability to be independent from management as they collectively bargain, particularly related to remuneration. We have heard consistently that compared to the big 15 police forces our men and women of the RCMP need a top-up. That will be a critical part of those negotiations.
    Independence from management is critical, but the first element of what the RCMP feels is critical in the unionization of the RCMP, as a result of this court case, is employee choice. For Conservatives, we have viewed that choice as giving every single member, from Windsor, to Winnipeg, to Whitehorse their right to decide who will be their collective bargaining agent, or indeed if there is a collective bargaining agent at all. How is employee choice best demonstrated? That should be conducted by secret ballot, as it has been historically for all public sector unions, because most have been unionized for several decades.
    I am not sure why the government has been so reluctant to acknowledge that. Canadians sent members of the government caucus here by secret ballot. They obviously think it is sufficient to get them to this place, but they do not want to give employee choice through a secret ballot to our men and women in uniform.
    Some members of the RCMP have said to me that I am getting hung up on a little detail. This is not a little detail. This is fundamental to true employee choice, absent of influences from the workplace, from Parliament, and from management, that Canadians have enjoyed since 1874. It is a fundamental tenet of our democracy. Conservatives have raised this since my first speech in this place on Bill C-7. We are very disappointed the government has not responded to that, given the men and women we charge with securing the rights and safety of Canadians with that same basic democratic right when it comes to choosing their collective bargaining agent.
    I will spend a moment on exclusions. I have been very open with supporting the government, or trying to support it, with respect to exclusions. I know many of the RCMP members watch my speeches on Bill C-7. The Supreme Court clearly says that not all elements of the collective bargaining arrangement are bargainable.
    Why are there some exclusions? It goes back to the paramilitary structure and the unique organization of the RCMP. The very fact there are postings, discipline, operational grading, consistency of operations, safety of conduct, all of these things are unique to the RCMP. If we had every posting bargainable or grieved, there would be no operational structure to the force. By extension, we cannot ignore the fact that on the horizon is the military. Therefore, do we really think these operational forces, like the RCMP or the military, could have every decision, operationally or discipline-wise, grieved? I do not think that is reasonable. As someone who has served 12 years in uniform, that is not reasonable. In fact, a very unique chain of command structure of the RCMP, or by extension the military, demands some degree of autonomy from the traditional labour dynamic. I acknowledge that. Some of the strident members of the mounted police associations have disagreed with me on that, but most of them do not disagree with the fact the RCMP is a paramilitary organization with a very unique culture and needs.
    The issue of harassment often comes up, and everyone tries to say it needs to be bargainable. The interesting thing is that then every issue would be deemed as harassment. We need to root out harassment and have a zero tolerance for it. I have heard the minister's comments. I know he keeps it as a priority, as the previous minister did.


    Bill C-42 in the previous Parliament, the Enhancing Royal Canadian Mounted Police Accountability Act, tackled this specifically and provided safeguards and a process to ensure that the RCMP had a zero tolerance environment. All members of Parliament agree on that point. There is no tolerance for harassment in the workplace, especially because of the chain of command setting where a superior officer, man or woman, is in a position of a power differential. Those can be difficult and challenging areas when there is harassment. If somebody is using that power differential to harass, that is an absence of leadership on his or her part.
    We can make sure that harassment is addressed, that a zero tolerance environment is promoted, without carving off certain elements so that everything related to operations, discipline, postings, and so on would be aggrieved as harassment. These things can be advanced.
    I would remind members of the RCMP and those who will continue to listen to my speeches on Bill C-7 that they are still dealing with the old way of thinking. Once there is an independent union, for lack of a better term, one of these mounted police associations nationally will have a significant voice in the public discourse as well, not just at the bargaining table for collective bargaining. Much like the MPAO took its court case and made public statements, once the RCMP has a single unified bargaining agent, the men and women of that organization will have a prominent role in the discourse around policing, public policy issues, public safety and security issues, and harassment. I tell members of the force not to think about the future based on the past and the staff relations program, which clearly was not independent enough for management, but to think of this new union being independent from management.
     Let us not kid ourselves and suggest that we can treat the RCMP with its chain of command, with its need for operational ability and discipline and postings, just like any other department of the federal government. It is not. We ask a lot of the men and women who wear the uniform for Canada and in return there is a unique set of employee and employer relationships. The Supreme Court not only acknowledged that but it gave us the road map to say that is possible and in conformance with the charter.
    I would also say for the exclusions that there is also the Financial Administration Act, there is a complaints process through the civilian route, and there are Treasury Board guidelines on a range of workplace issues. The collective bargaining table is not the only area where the health, wellness, and occupational elements of the workplace for RCMP members are considered. We need to remember that.
    I would like to offer brief praise to the government on its willingness to remove Sections 40 and 42 from Bill C-7. The Conservative caucus, and the NDP caucus joined with us, pushed to have these sections removed. It was not core to the Supreme Court of Canada decision and the need for a collective bargaining agent. In many ways it concerned the men and women of the RCMP that the government was trying to outsource health and occupational wellness to workers' compensation bodies. The point I have always made, particularly when it comes to operational stress injuries that we have seen rise, is that we do not need an uneven playing field across the country on how our men and women seek treatment and compensation with respect to injuries. There needs to be one consistent high standard for our one top level police force. I applaud the government for listening and for removing those provisions from Bill C-7.
    Our public safety committee has simultaneous to Bill C-7 also been hearing from uniformed service personnel from across the country on the issue of operational stress injuries. It is heartening to see all sides working on this. This is an area where we need to take the learnings from the Canadian Armed Forces and Veterans Affairs Canada and the RCMP and share them with other municipal police forces, firefighters, paramedics, and prison guards.


    The Conservatives appreciate the government's movement on some fronts with regard to Bill C-7. However, without the secret ballot and without the real consultations to ensure the men and women on the front lines of the RCMP understand the exclusions, on which I have tried to work with the government, we cannot support the bill as it currently stands. I would ask the government to give more time so the men and women of the RCMP have confidence in the union that will be created.


    Mr. Speaker, I thank and congratulate my colleague from Durham for his inspiring speech. I would like to think that the common ground he spoke about will eventually convince members on his side of the House to support the bill.
    We hear my colleague's demands quite clearly. However, with respect to the secret ballot, does he not think that the two specific elements in the court's decision are choice and independence?
    Since the court set only two criteria, would it not be feasible, and even preferable, to allow RCMP members, as professionals, to make their choice and then determine how to choose their union? This vote, regardless of format, happens at the second stage. By responding to the court's ruling, we can finally give them the choice they need.



    Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the parliamentary secretary for his work on the bill, and his compliments on my remarks. I appreciate that. I know he was listening intently, as he did two previous times, so I am sure he heard certain elements of my speeches before.
    Unfortunately, I would have to give my friend a 50% grade on Bill C-7. Two elements were elucidated upon by the Supreme Court, and the Liberals fail on one and pass on the other. What we see in Bill C-7 is sufficiently independent from management. It is taking the shortcomings of the staff relations program and fixing it.
    Where the Liberals fail is on employee choice, for two reasons, and it gives me no great pleasure to give them this grade. The first is that they cannot make a decision unless they are informed on the full extent of the elements of Bill C-7, including the exclusions. We are all hearing from men and women of the RCMP that they do not understand why certain elements of the collective bargaining context are excluded so they cannot make an informed decision on their bargaining agent.
    The second element of why they fail—the employee choice element of the Supreme Court decision—is the secret ballot vote. Our previous government did an outreach exercise in the form of a questionnaire to members. However, to really find out what members think, the members have to understand what is before them, and it is clear not enough of them do, and they have to weigh the decision and vote, free from pressure from management and free from their partners in some cases. The way we do that in a democracy is with a secret ballot. I am not sure why this modest proposal is being ignored by the government.
    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?
    Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the work of the member for Elmwood—Transcona on Bill C-7. He joined our committee for a time, and was a welcome addition. I disagree with him, and this puts me in the odd spot that I am helping the government indirectly, but there has not been a sleight of hand here.
    On the elements of the exclusion, some things can be dealt with elsewhere. I have talked about Bill C-42 and the issues and the structure around the Financial Administration Act, Treasury Board guidelines. Therefore, there is another framework of federal regulation surrounding the workplace that also applies to the RCMP.
    However, what is critical, and I said this at committee and know the hon. member was listening, is that the chain of command nature of the RCMP and the ability for training, service standards, discipline and that sort of thing is from the chain of command structure. While I agree there is some trust issues with managements, and there has been historically for the last couple of decades, at the end of the day, senior leaders in the RCMP started in the same place a brand new recruit did, in depot. The operational requirements, standards and indeed discipline and conduct are elements of that training and that uniform. Operational command and the ability to post, the ability to assess performance is of paramilitary nature and is not a regular workplace environment.
    What I say to some members, and we had them at committee, is that the RCMP members go through depot and some of their classmates, men or women, will become senior management, ultimately maybe commissioner one day. That trust and that shared training and adherence to the institution is part of the workplace. The Supreme Court recognizes that. It did not say, as a result of the Supreme Court decision, that this workplace would be treated like a manufacturing plant or even another element of government.
    It is important for the government to try to get the balance right. As I said, it has that in terms of independence from management. We feel the front line is not sufficiently confident in what it sees in Bill C-7. Without a secret ballot vote, we cannot really know whether our men and women of the RCMP support this union structure.


    Mr. Speaker, the hon. member mentioned at the beginning of his remarks that this was the third time he spoke. I have been in the House every time he has spoken, and he has done so with passion, conviction, and a forthright nature.
    I want to ask the hon. member again about the secret ballot. In a question from the member for Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, the hon. member for Vancouver Quadra referenced that the secret ballot had seen a decline in unionization, and studies had shown that. If we use that logic, that is the only reason why the union movement has declined, I would suggest it would more so be the will of the members, which can be even greater under a secret ballot system. As the hon. member for Durham has said, a secret ballot is the tenet of democracy.
    Could the hon. member expand on that, particularly the decline of union movement and the fact that union members are free to express their voices?
    Mr. Speaker, the member for Barrie—Innisfil has worn a uniform. His advocacy for the RCMP for our men and women in uniform and uniform service across the country is appreciated.
    He highlighted where the government was failing. The employee choice element of the Supreme Court decision has not been met. He expressed it probably perfectly. He described it as “the will of the members”. There is a great book on Churchill and parliamentary democracy called Will of the People. The will of the people to send all of us to this place is expressed by secret ballot so there is no interference with the desire for that vote. Why not extend that same basic right to the men and women of the RCMP?
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to start my remarks today by thanking all the men and women in the RCMP who serve our country. It has been a real honour to have had an opportunity, through working on Bill C-7, to hear from them and get a sense of the needs and challenges of the RCMP today.
    As a new member of Parliament, this has been an opportunity for me to learn a lot about a very important institution in Canada and to hear directly from those who serve us so well.
    It is an attempt by the NDP to try to manifest that thanks in arguments and in a position on Bill C-7 that will bring about the best outcome for members of the RCMP and that will give them a greater say in the future of the institution they serve, and through that institution the country.
    It is my hope that our arguments and actions in this debate have been worthy of their service. In that spirit, I would like to make some remarks about the bill at third reading.
    Bill C-7 was one of the first bills the government brought to the House of Commons. At that time, there was a collegial spirit, and a lot of talk about the importance of the committee process and how empowered committees would be in order to make meaningful changes to legislation. At that time, there was far less evidence that this may not come to pass than there is now.
    The NDP was happy to support the bill at second reading, to send it to committee to deal with what we thought were some important concerns. Some of those concerns were addressed, and we were happy to work with other parties in order to get rid of clauses 40 and 42 in the bill, which really had little to do with the Supreme Court decision and were kind of tacking on a decision about the benefits of members without consulting them. Frankly, this was just before, or on the cusp, of them potentially having a bargaining unit that could do that credibly on their behalf.
    That did not make sense. We were very glad to work with the other parties on committee to jettison that part of the bill, and leave it for later when RCMP members could be represented in that discussion and help come to a conclusion about the state of their benefits, rather than having the decision made for them.
    The next important area of concern from our point of view are the exclusions. That is also the point of view of nearly every RCMP member who has contacted me as the responsible critic in the NDP.
    Today we heard hon. members talk about the two important elements of the Supreme Court decision, the explicit ones. Those are independence of the bargaining unit from management and choice, that members be able to choose a bargaining unit.
    What gets lost, even though those are the two items explicitly mentioned by the Supreme Court, is that there needs to be an independent bargaining unit freely chosen by the membership in order to bargain with the employer about the things that matter in the workplace.
    Even if the bill meets those two aspects of independence and choice, if it leaves nothing to bargain, because that has all been excluded under the legislation, or if it does not leave most things to bargain, then I do not think it is in keeping with the spirit of the Supreme Court decision. I have said before in the House that the bill as it stands is certainly open to challenge.
    It is not just open to challenge because it is a bill, a piece of law. Any bill at any time is open to any challenge. It is open to challenge, and is likely to be challenged, because it does not satisfy the people who went to court and fought for years in order to get some meaningful say over the future of their workplace.
    It is not because by getting collective bargaining rights all of a sudden employees or the president of the union or just anyone who happens to work for the RCMP can walk into the commissioner's office and say “This is the way it will go from now on”. It is because it would at least give them the opportunity to be involved and consulted in a way that they never have been before.


    That is why so many RCMP members were so excited and joyful when the Supreme Court ruled that it was not right and that it was a violation of their charter rights that they be denied the right to bargain collectively in their workplace. The way that the Supreme Court made sense of that was that people need the freedom to meaningfully advocate for their concerns within their workplaces.
     It has been our position all along that these exclusions do not do that. It seems to be that some members are of the view that somehow if we take away the exclusions, suddenly a clerk in the RCMP would be dictating to the commissioner what the rules of the workplace are. Of course to anyone who has any real understanding of collective bargaining, that is ridiculous. I do not see why we would not want to empower members to bring forward proposals about the way things ought to operate in the RCMP. We all know and have discussed many times already, not just in this Parliament but in all of the previous Parliaments, that there are problems within the RCMP.
    Traditionally, the way to deal with those problems has been that the commissioner and the government, in some way, shape, or form, get together and say that there is zero tolerance for the kinds of problems that exist, or affirm their support for the force and say that they want to work together to ensure that the RCMP members have everything they need. However, we know that has not always worked. I do not see how that could possibly be controversial to say.
    Collective bargaining, which the court has said RCMP members have a charter right to, would not be the only tool. I do not think anyone is maintaining that once collective bargaining comes to the RCMP there will be no further problems or incidents in the workplace. What we are saying is that by introducing meaningful collective bargaining, and by that I mean bargaining without the list of exclusions currently in Bill C-7, we would be introducing a genuinely new tool into the workplace, not just for workers but also for management and the government to deal with some of those issues, and to deal with them closer to where they are happening, so that they do not have to come to Parliament to be dealt with, mostly by people who do not have experience or background in the RCMP. They could be dealt with in the workplace instead.
    If it turns out that some of those proposals are completely unreasonable, then they would go to binding arbitration. That arbitrator is required by this very law to take into account the unique role of the RCMP as a national police force and the stated budgetary policies of the government. Therefore, allowing RCMP members to come forward with proposals is not any kind of real threat to the operational structure of the RCMP. Any of those proposals would first be reviewed by management at the bargaining table. If they are really unreasonable they would not be agreed to. Beyond that, they would be assessed by an independent third party that has to take into account all of those very factors, which members have so well articulated, that make the RCMP different.
    Certainly, if we talk to RCMP members themselves, those who are advocating for a more open model of collective bargaining without the exclusions, they will tell us that they do not want the RCMP to be treated just like any other federal department. However, if we take the exclusions out, the RCMP is still not treated just as any other federal department.
    Therefore, it is our submission that Bill C-7 satisfies the legitimate concerns made in those arguments and that those arguments are mistakenly applied in favour of having an itemized list of exclusions, when those concerns are already answered by the many other elements of protection either for management or due to the unique nature of the RCMP. Sometimes those are harder to tell apart than others, but we are satisfied that those protections exist and that unreasonable proposals that do not adequately care for the spirit of the RCMP and its unique operational nature will be dispensed with through binding arbitration and those interpretive constraints.
    What the exclusions really amount to is just prejudging the reasonableness of the proposals employees may bring, and saying to them in advance, “Whatever it is you want to bring here you can't, and we don't want to hear it.” That is the tone that is set.


    There may be other avenues that they can bring those proposals through. There have been other avenues over the last four or five decades and more. However, the point is that those other avenues have not been satisfactory. That is why so many members of the RCMP took the RCMP to court to say they wanted collective bargaining because their legitimate desires and goals within the workplace, even though it would be nice if they were, were not being heard adequately through those other avenues.
    They want another avenue called collective bargaining, not because it is a panacea, not because they are going to get everything they want but because they clearly need another tool in the tool box. They need another way of working on these issues in their workplace in order to have success at resolving long-standing issues within their institution that have eluded them through all those other avenues. It is their way of asking the government not to create more avenues that formally are the same as the avenues before, but to do something genuinely new and let them in on the ground level to propose and be part of solutions in their workplace to deal with as much as they can as close to the work as they can. Those other issues that cannot be resolved can then bubble up and can be dealt with along with those other avenues.
    I just do not see why that does not sound like a good idea to the government, and why the government insists on maintaining these exclusions. I just do not see the same threat to the institution.
    Looking at the bill and considering the history of the RCMP and listening to what RCMP members would have to say is something that unfortunately more Canadians are not in a position to be able to do directly. Part of the honour and privilege of being the critic for the bill for the NDP is that I have had the opportunity to do that. When we lay those things beside each other, it is hard not to feel that this list of exclusions really is just ridiculous. It either comes from a desire to satisfy RCMP management as opposed to the front-line workers in a way that I do not think makes sense or is appropriate for government, or it comes just from a basic failure to understand collective bargaining. That is not where I started out in terms of my thinking on this, but I just do not see how they can engender this kind of resistance to these exclusions, given everything else that is within the bill, the binding arbitration system and the interpretive constraints put on the arbitrator, and think that somehow the RCMP is going to fall apart if members put their issues on the table.
    Those members care deeply about the institution, and that is something that has been very clear to me in the correspondence that I have received from them. Let them bring the proposals, let them work with management, and let them have their agreements and disagreements. For what does not get solved there, we can look at those other avenues. No one is saying those other avenues need to be closed. It is just to say that there is an opportunity here to do it differently and to do it better, and that we can do that while respecting the unique nature and therefore unique needs of the RCMP. In fact, a lot of that is already in the bill.
    Just to address some of the other arguments that have been made, we have heard that it is a different kind of organization because the members start out as cadets and anyone who ultimately ends up wearing the commissioner's uniform wore the other uniforms on the way up, so there is a level of trust with the senior leadership of the RCMP. That is a nice picture, and I am sure that it is true in many cases. However, it is clearly not enough, just in the way that collective bargaining on its own is not enough. Just because they have a collective agreement, it does not mean that they will never again have a workplace incident. However, they set up rules in order to be able to deal with an incident when it happens.
    The trust and camaraderie within the RCMP is a good thing and I am sure that in certain cases that has meant a great deal to those members and has helped resolve situations, but it clearly has not resolved them all. It verges on being naive to expect that simply because people were together in their initial training, somehow 20 years later there are never going to be problems between management and workers. Sometimes despite its best intentions, management is going to be on the wrong side of that argument. What is important then when that trust breaks down, as it has demonstrably within the RCMP at times, is that there is a good process in place. That is the idea behind a collective agreement.


    There can be workplace processes in place without a collective agreement. Many workplaces have them, but the idea is to give RCMP members a say in what those procedures will be. It is not to say they would get a veto on every workplace procedure. It still has to be negotiated and go to binding arbitration. Fundamentally I do not agree with the idea that somehow there is something that will fall apart if members are allowed to bring those proposals.
    When one hears from as many members as I have, they are distressed and upset at the fact that those proposals will not be able to go forward. They were also not consulted in any serious or meaningful way prior to this. There was a survey that the Conservatives ran last summer. I have heard from certain members that they did not really know what they were being consulted on or understood what their answers would ultimately mean. Therefore, there has not been great consultation and I have been hearing that members do not agree with the exclusions.
    I do not see why the government is willing to dissatisfy so many RCMP members, many of whom were part of the suit in court, who felt that they were gaining not a panacea but an important tool in the workplace that was not there before, a workplace where some things were not going right. In my view, there is not much at stake with removing these exclusions.
    That is something I have been wrestling with. I wrestled with it at committee and again at report stage where there was an amendment about the exclusions. It was not as comprehensive as the NDP amendment at committee, but it at least dealt with one of those exclusions. We heard the same arguments and we are hearing those same arguments again today at third reading. It has been a bit of a disappointment in terms of process, because other than the RCMP commissioner himself and some top brass and other members of this chamber on the government side and in the Conservative Party, I have not heard anyone say that they agree with the exclusions or that they do not think some of those exclusions should be lifted.
     It is rare to get a unanimous conclusion and I have heard from some who think some exclusions are warranted and maybe others are not, but the resounding cry I have heard from those who would be affected by the legislation is that they would like to have a significant number of exclusions removed, and in most cases all of them, so that they can bring proposals forward. I have yet to hear a compelling argument, when I look at the whole bill and the other aspects of the bill, that says we should not be doing this.
    Saying RCMP members all went to their first training together so we should just trust them to do a good job is not sufficient. I do not think it is enough to say that they are getting independence and choice of the bargaining unit, when there is not left much to bargain. That is a really important thrust of the Supreme Court decision. That is clear and that is the subject of the decision. One might forgive the court for not feeling it had to be on the list of things the legislation had to satisfy. How do members select a bargaining unit if the legislation that grants the right and the process to collective bargaining takes away everything that can be bargained at the same time, leaving only pay and benefits? It is clear that the spirit of the decision is not being respected and we can expect to see it challenged again by the very same people who fought it for a very long time.
    We started out by supporting this to send it to committee in part because we wanted to see those exclusions dealt with, but that simply never happened. In all of that I never heard a really compelling argument for why they would not be removed. It is unfortunate, but it is not something that we can support at third reading at the end of this process.


    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?


    Mr. Speaker, the parliamentary secretary gave a two-part question, so I will give a two-part answer.
    We have heard from RCMP members, and a number of members in this place, that it would not make sense to treat the RCMP as any other branch of the federal public service. The appropriate analogy is on the other police organizations in Canada. At committee, we received a document that showed there are a number of police organizations across Canada that enjoy the right to collective bargaining. They have a bargaining unit that has negotiated some clauses, small or large, within their collective agreements that cover the areas of exemption.
     I would agree with RCMP members and arguments made in this chamber that there is a unique nature to the RCMP, which certainly sets it apart from other federal departments. It has to do more with policing, and that is why it makes sense to align the act more with the status quo of other police forces in Canada and not with other federal departments.
    We have heard the arguments against the card check, but I do not believe it is undemocratic. It has never been implemented without an option to call for a secret ballot vote. Therefore, to say that this right would be taken away is just not true on the facts.
     If one does not make one's assessment in a vacuum, there is a lot of evidence that shows that when it comes to secret ballot votes, it is not simply that members do not get to express their true opinion if it is not for unionization, but that there are intense intimidation campaigns leading up to secret ballot votes that cause employees to change their minds. That is why the card check system was brought about. Nothing on the facts about this has changed, despite protestations from certain Conservative members of the House.
    Mr. Speaker, one of the things that concerns me about the bill is that the government is purporting to respond to the court ruling about the rights of RCMP officers who have been denied the ability to undertake collective bargaining. However, we have a bill that sets out to allow collective bargaining, but then strips away key provisions that should be in place in normal collective bargaining.
    For example, there is the issue of being able to talk about staffing in terms of whether or not a police officer has backup. These are fundamental health and safety issues that would normally be under collective bargaining. There is also the issue of harassment. We have seen so many cases of officers subjected to harassment who did not have a proper dispute mechanism. The Liberals are telling us there are many other existing processes that they could take their harassment claims to, but they have failed.
    Today, on a day when an RCMP officer with 27 years of duty has been terminated, who is suffering PTSD from what she referred to as systemic harassment on the force, would it not be wise to allow collective bargaining? Would it not be wise for that to be one of the places where RCMP members could put these issues on the table to start finding solutions, so that we do not end up with RCMP officers, who may be suffering in unhealthy work environments, before the courts?
    Mr. Speaker, if we look at the flashpoint incidents, or the cases that RCMP members and the MPPAC, and those who have advocated for collective bargaining for the RCMP for a long time and who took the government to court to secure those rights, they are not talking about 5% over four years or little adjustments to the health plan or pension. They are talking about the kinds of incidents that we have heard about in the media. They have to do with harassment. They have to do with officers answering calls alone in remote and northern communities and ending up hurt or dead. They are talking about the equipment that in some cases they do not have in order to respond effectively, and which has ended up in the injury or death of members.
    These are the things that animated and motivated a court battle over many years in an effort to win those rights. I have a lot of sympathy for members who are feeling angry and frustrated that the bill that is supposed to bring a collective bargaining regime into existence for them, at the same time takes away their ability to raise the very issues that animated and maintained and motivated that court battle over so many years.
    My short answer to the member's question is yes. It is not right that the RCMP is not able to bring proposals to the table. No one is saying collective bargaining fixes everything, but the court has said that Canadians have a right to it and that it is another way to address problems. It is fair to say that the RCMP is in need of a new way because it has tried things under the old model many times before. I am glad to see that we are going to try again. I hope it is successful. We could increase the odds of success by putting more tools in the toolbox. That is what meaningful collective bargaining would do, but that is unfortunately not in Bill C-7.


    Mr. Speaker, I am a former mayor and have negotiated with police forces on collective agreements. In addition to what my colleague from Vancouver stated in recognizing that other groups within the public sector also have these exclusions, to me it is particularly important when it comes to police and paramilitary organizations that these exclusions exist. When they are included in collective bargaining, they tend to be areas where people cannot agree and concessions have to be made in other areas, such as salary, for example, in order to satisfy demands that may be unreasonable in relation to termination or harassment policy.
    Based on the hon. member's review of other police organizations in the country, are these not typical exclusions in most police collective agreements?
    Mr. Speaker, when we had a spreadsheet submitted to us at committee on the last day, one from MPPAC and one from the RCMP itself, we found that in virtually every category of exclusion, at least one and often more police forces across Canada do have clauses that fall within the area of that exclusion.
    These exclusions are not normal for police forces across Canada, which is part of what we are saying. If police forces across the country have negotiated clauses that fall under the purview of these exclusions and the sky did not fall, then why would we think that the sky would fall if RCMP members are allowed to just bring it to the table for starters? They may negotiate something that falls within the purview of one of those exemptions, but that would not be the end of the world.
    To speak to some of my colleague's concerns about cost and other things, it is important to know that the proposed framework set up in Bill C-7 is that those things go to binding arbitration. The arbitrator, because of what is in Bill C-7, is required to take into consideration in his or her deliberations the unique nature of the RCMP as a national police force and the stated budgetary policies of the government. That is not a very forgiving arbitration regime from the point of view of RCMP members. What we are saying is that the government should at least allow them to bring proposals to the table and maybe—
    Resuming debate. The hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness.
    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak to the important bill now before us at third reading.
    As members are aware, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled in January of last year that a number of key provisions of the labour relations framework for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police violated the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Indeed, the court outlined that interfering with the right of RCMP members to the collective bargaining aspect of the labour relations regime in place at the time was an infringement of RCMP members' charter guarantee of the right to freedom of association.
    In accordance with the Supreme Court's timeline, that labour relations regime was dissolved on May 17. Right now, RCMP members are being provided with workplace support through the members' workplace services program on an interim basis. However, as I will discuss shortly, the House must move quickly to implement a new legislative framework governing labour relations in our national police force. As such, I invite all members to join us in support of 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.
    That this legislation was brought before the House so quickly is a mark of our government's determination to respect not only the ruling of the court, but also, in a timely manner, to respect the constitutional right of the thousands of men and women who serve Canadians from coast to coast to coast. This government takes the protection and security of Canadians very seriously. Since the RCMP plays an integral role in achieving this objective, it makes sense that we should make every effort to protect the rights of those who protect us.
    Let me now turn to how Bill C-7 would achieve these essential goals. In the first instance, as the court made clear in its decision, in order to comply with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, a labour relations regime must be based on two fundamental principles: one, it must provide for independence, in the sense that an employee organization must be independent of management; and, two, to comply with the charter, a labour relations regime must provide choice, in the sense that employees have the opportunity to choose for themselves the organization they wish to represent their interests to their employer.



     By contrast, to quote the decision of the court, the labour relations framework known as the staff relations representative program was:
… not an association in any meaningful sense, nor a form of exercise of the right to freedom of association. It is simply an internal human relations scheme imposed on RCMP members by management.
    Bill C-7 would enable the very opposite. It speaks to that which is the essence of bargaining as a collective: an independent organization, not beholden to management, freely chosen by the people whose interests it was created to represent and uphold.
    RCMP members and reservists, for the first time, would enjoy the same labour relations rights that other employees in the federal workplace have enjoyed for more than four decades: independence and their choice of representation.
    Before I get into the details of the bill, I think it worthwhile to remind the House how the bill came to look the way it does. The Government of Canada could not simply impose these changes on RCMP members. It was important that the government hear and take into account the views of RCMP regular members.
     RCMP members were consulted through a variety of channels, from an online survey to town hall sessions in more than a dozen communities across the country. More than 9,000 regular members completed the survey, and over 650 people participated in the town hall sessions.
     At the same time, recognizing that the RCMP, through police service agreements, provides police services in many jurisdictions across Canada, and that a change in labour relations may have implications for those agreements, Public Safety Canada engaged in discussions with the provinces and territories that are served by the RCMP.


    The bill before us today is in keeping with the decision of the Supreme Court and also with the results of consultations with RCMP regular members and reservists and contracting jurisdictions.
    The views and preferences expressed during those consultations with RCMP members and reservists were clear. A large majority stated that they wanted: first, the option for a unionized RCMP; second, independence from RCMP management; third, representation in a single national bargaining unit of RCMP members and reservists by a bargaining agent whose principle mandate is the representation of RCMP members; and fourth, binding arbitration with no right to strike.
    Bill C-7 addresses each of these four key points, which come from RCMP regular members and reservists themselves. RCMP members and reservists told us they wanted the option to unionize. This bill would provide them with the option to choose whether they wish to be represented by a bargaining agent, in a sense, a union. They told us they wanted independence from RCMP management, and this bill would enable a bargaining agent that is independent from the influence of RCMP management.
    A majority said they wanted representation in a single national bargaining unit of RCMP members and reservists by a bargaining agent whose principal mandate is the representation of RCMP members. This is a point worthy of further explanation.
    The government agrees that should RCMP members choose to be represented by a union, that bargaining agent must have the representation of police forces as its only responsibility. To do otherwise opens the possibility of a potential conflict in loyalties. It would be unfair and unwise to put RCMP members in the position of having to police members of another bargaining unit with which the members were affiliated.
    The government also agrees that the bargaining agent should be a single national body rather than having the national character of the RCMP altered by the formation of regional unions.
    We are confident that Canadians will see these provisions as appropriate. Again, most RCMP members themselves believe this to be the best course. Indeed, one of the reasons it is important for us to adopt this legislation quickly is that since the previous labour relations regime was dissolved on May 17, the RCMP finds itself in an interim period. The sooner Bill C-7 is in place, the sooner we can ensure that regional bargaining agents or bargaining agents that are not exclusively focused on policing do not begin to establish themselves within our national police force.



     The bill would also achieve the independence and choice demanded by the court decision by bringing RCMP members and reservists under the governance of the Public Service Labour Relations Act, thus aligning RCMP labour relations with that of the rest of the federal public service. This means RCMP regular members and reservists would have the right to negotiate a collective agreement, as bargaining agents have been negotiating on behalf of other federal employees for decades, and as is the case for every other police service in Canada.
     Existing provisions of the Public Service Labour Relations Act that exclude employees in managerial and confidential positions would apply to the RCMP. As well, when the act is applied to the RCMP, officers holding the rank of inspector and above would be excluded from representation.
    This bill would enable the negotiation of collective agreements that would cover things one would expect to find in such agreements, from rates of pay and pay increments to hours of work and work scheduling. RCMP regular members and reservists would be able to negotiate, among other things, overtime and extra duty pay; shift and weekend premiums; designated paid holidays, vacation and sick leave; parental and maternity leave; career development; and education. In other words they could negotiate provisions we have become accustomed to seeing for many, many years in the collective agreements that have been negotiated in the federal public service and in public and private sector organizations across Canada.
    Further, the Public Service Labour Relations and Employment Board would be charged with administering the process for RCMP members, just as it does for all other employees of the Treasury Board of Canada.
     As one would expect, Bill C-7 takes into account the particular circumstances of the RCMP and the important role of the RCMP as Canada’s national police force in ensuring the safety and security of Canadians.
     Accordingly, it restricts certain matters from negotiation or inclusion in any arbitral awards that impact the RCMP's ability to operate in an effective and accountable manner.
    Things such as law enforcement techniques, including methods of interrogation, crime analysis, witness protection, DNA collection, search and seizure techniques, and so on, would be non-negotiable.



    Other exclusions from collective bargaining or arbitration would include, for example, the uniform, order of dress and equipment of the RCMP; deployment; and conduct and discipline, including inappropriate behaviour, commonly recognized as harassment, and enforcement techniques. These kinds of exceptions are by no means unusual, but as I know, the issue of conduct, including harassment, has been the subject of much discussion in the House and in committee, allow me to reiterate that it is a priority for our government to ensure that all RCMP members and employees feel safe and respected at work.
    The Minister of Public Safety has made clear directly to the RCMP commissioner that in dealing with harassment we expect comprehensive, transparent investigations; serious disciplinary measures; support for victims; and concrete action to end toxic workplace behaviour.
    As the House has been informed, the minister has asked the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP to undertake a comprehensive review of the RCMP's policies and procedures on workplace harassment and to evaluate the implementation of the recommendation it made in 2013. Going forward, the minister will continue to be active on this important part of his mandate from the Prime Minister to ensure that the RCMP and all other parts of the public safety portfolio are free from harassment and sexual violence.
    I will close by returning to the four key elements RCMP members told us they wanted to see in a new labour relations framework. They want the option for a unionized RCMP; independence from RCMP management; representation in a single, national, bargaining unit of RCMP members and reservists by a bargaining agent whose principal mandate is the representation of RCMP members; and binding arbitration with no right to strike.
    It is fitting to end my remarks today on the last element. I believe it speaks to the commitment and dedication of the members of our national police service that members themselves have told us they should not be allowed to withdraw their service.


    Clearly, RCMP members understand their responsibility, and this government understands its responsibility, which is to respect the decision of the Supreme Court of Canada and bring forward a bill that assures RCMP regular members and reservists of their charter right to freedom of association. That is the bill we have before us now, and I urge all members of this House to join the government in supporting its expeditious passage.
    Mr. Speaker, as I said earlier, we have not yet heard any real arguments to justify the exclusions that are in Bill C-7.
    Considering all the other protections for management that are included in Bill C-7, why does the government feel that these exclusions are necessary, and why not allow RCMP members to weigh in with their opinion?
    This question should be pretty easy to answer, given that the government supports these protections.
    Mr. Speaker, I will respond not only in my capacity as parliamentary secretary, but also as a former civilian member of the RCMP.
    When I was a member of the RCMP I witnessed some difficult incidents and saw for myself its unique role. One cannot always compare the RCMP and other police forces.
    The RCMP has a unique role because of the levels of service it provides. The exclusions are not what make the RCMP unique. It is because of this existing unique and special role that these exclusions are required, and that can be seen in the field.
    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?


    Mr. Speaker, as a result of the RCMP's unique nature, there are police forces at every level: municipal, provincial, and federal. Whether we are talking about contract policing or federal policing with federal laws, the RCMP is a unique entity given its overall national environment, the way it is organized, and the nature of its work.
    It is true that the RCMP is seen as a quasi-military organization. There are many reasons we can list as to why the RCMP is a unique entity. However, these men and women put their lives at risk every day to protect the lives of others and, for that reason alone, they deserve exemptions that prevent problems on the ground and keep them safe.


    Mr. Speaker, I wish to follow up on something that I was discussing with the Parliamentary Secretary to the President of the Treasury Board earlier, which is the reason why it is so important to have harassment as an item subject to collective agreements in Bill C-7. I am very disappointed it is not there. The reason it should be there is that in a collective agreement there is the possibility and an ability to have it put into a framework. Right now if members of the RCMP complain of harassment they have no access to legal counsel, no support, and no peer support and can be subject to further harassment while awaiting a decision. We really should have a measure in this bill that gives the men and women of the RCMP the ability to set up a free, open collective bargaining framework that protects them if they are being harassed.
    Mr. Speaker, I invite the hon. colleague to maintain this question at heart, because we do share the same preoccupation when it comes to harassment.
    In terms of this specific issue, we understand that it is part of the exclusion because it is clear in the mandate letter that was addressed to the Minister of Public Safety that we have to address this specific issue. There are solutions to erase this issue, which appears to be imperfect at the moment. However, it is a tough issue and we believe that, with the engagement we have through the Minister of Public Safety, we will address and correct the situation properly without jeopardizing any negotiations with respect to the exclusion aspect.


    Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for the speech he gave today.
    According to the comments made by some of the people who are involved in this matter, it would seem that the bill does not quite meet the criteria set out by the court in its ruling on this issue. This will be the second bill introduced in the last short while that does not meet the court's requirements.
    Could my colleague at least address the court's ruling? Does he think that the bill before us today meets the criteria established? Some people think that this bill does not fully meet those criteria, as one might have expected.


     Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his question.
    I would like to remind the House of something that was said by the party opposite and that we completely agree with. The court was very clear on two things: the RCMP must be given the choice as to whether to become unionized and the union must be independent from RCMP management. Those are two criteria that are set out in the court's decision. There are two others, but those are the first two criteria that the bill presents to Parliament.
    Mr. Speaker, I want to commend my colleague on his excellent bill and his excellent speech.
    Earlier, I asked the hon. member for Elmwood—Transcona a question about collective agreements for police officers. I do not agree that the majority of police officers in Canada have bargaining rights on issues that we have excluded from this bill.
    Can the hon. parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness tell us whether these exclusions are different from those that apply to the majority of police officers in Canada?
    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for the question.
    Earlier I alluded to my past experiences as a former civilian member of the RCMP. I had the misfortune of monitoring the events at Dawson College over the internal radio, and I completely understand the importance of having a chain of command, which entails many of the things that we find in the exclusions. It is important for the exclusions to be maintained. It is hard to compare the RCMP with other police forces because the RCMP is just different.
    Other police forces do not provide all the same services as the RCMP. When we see men and women putting their lives at risk on the ground, the chain of command is so important that it is essential to maintain a certain number of things within management. The work on the ground is what makes the RCMP so unique.


    Mr. Speaker, just in relation to the timing of the bill itself, we all recognize the important work that RCMP members do in all regions of our country, and their ability to organize is long overdue. This would not be the first time we had a police organization in Canada being organized to form a labour negotiating board.
    I wonder if the member would provide some comment on the fact that this is long overdue and we have nothing to fear because it has already been happening in many different forces in Canada.


    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question.
    Indeed, this is not the first time that a police force has unionized. The problem we have is that, considering the unique role of the RCMP, it is crucial that the organization that represents it specialize exclusively in the kind of work that characterizes the RCMP.
    If the current vacuum goes on for too long, there is a risk that the agencies that come forward to represent RCMP members could create conflicts of interest if, by chance, a conflict arises whereby two sections of the same agency are in conflict because of any RCMP activity with or in a group that is also unionized with the same agency. In order to avoid that, it is absolutely crucial that they unionize with a specialized group, and the time has come to do so.


[Statements by Members]



    Mr. Speaker, the Bloc Québécois does not give up when it comes to fighting for social justice issues, especially when it involves the most vulnerable among us.
    In committee 15 years ago, we highlighted the need to automatically register seniors who are eligible for the guaranteed income supplement through the simple tax return. Departmental officials at the time admitted that they had been aware of the deficiencies since 1993.
    Former Bloc critics Marcel Gagnon, Raymond Gravel, and Christiane Gagnon toured all over Quebec looking for people who have been shortchanged. We have been fighting for their cause in the House for years now.
    Today I am proud to say that the federal government has finally heard us, after 25 years of inaction, eight governments, three bills in the House, and two unanimous motions in the National Assembly. We will continue monitoring this very closely until the first payment is made.
    This is why Quebeckers win when they elect Bloc Québécois members who work on their behalf.



Members–Pages Soccer Match

    Mr. Speaker, this year the House of Commons kept former parliamentarian Peter Stoffer's tradition alive, and on May 18 the annual MP-page friendly soccer match took place. A grizzled band of misfit members from both sides of this House faced off against a spry, young, and upstart team of pages in a hard-fought battle.
     Commoners FC started off strong and led most of the game. However, with depth on the pages' side, we were outnumbered, at times out-hustled, and certainly out-cheered. Our early offence was not quite enough, and at the final whistle the score stood at a four-to-four draw. It was fitting to see both sides share in the glory that evening, as we are all winners in this House with the tremendous contribution of the pages.
     I thank these young leaders who work tirelessly each and every day to ensure that our work here runs effectively. To the pages I say that their personal contributions are a valuable resource to this chamber and a lasting testament to Canada's rich democracy.


Beauport-Limoilou Fishing Festival

    Mr. Speaker, in Quebec, the arrival of summer is synonymous with a brand-new season of outdoor activities in the vast green spaces of my riding, Beauport—Limoilou.
    One of the most popular of these activities is the Festival de la pêche at the Rivière Beauport linear park, the 23rd edition of which will be held this Saturday, June 4. This is a major event, free for the whole family, that exposes the young and the curious to the joys of fishing right in the heart of Beauport—Limoilou.
    The Education and Water Monitoring Action Group will stock the river with nearly 4,500 trout for the festival. This event is part of the provincial fishing festival, so people do not need a licence to come fish.
    I invite everyone in Beauport—Limoilou to tie some flies, take some pictures, and eat some hot dogs with their neighbours starting at eight o'clock on Saturday morning at the Rivière Beauport.
    I know I will be there.

Ottawa Champions

    Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to rise today to acknowledge the Ottawa Champions Baseball Club in its second season.


    The Ottawa Champions play in the Can-Am League, which has teams in Quebec City; Sussex County, New Jersey; Rockland, New York; and Trois-Rivières. Last year they sold just more than 115,000 tickets and welcomed more than 150,000 fans to the ballpark for their inaugural season that saw them compete for the playoff spot right up until the last games of the season.
    The local star is Sebastien Boucher who is from Gatineau, Quebec. The team manager is Hal Lanier, who played for the San Francisco Giants and the New York Yankees.
    The Ottawa Champions will play 54 home games this summer. In mid-June, they will welcome the Cuban national team and in late June a sister-league team, the Shikoku Island League all-stars from Japan. They will play in Ottawa against the Champions.
    Next year, as part of the Canadian 2017 celebrations, the Ottawa Champions will hold a Can-Am all-star game.


    I encourage every baseball fan in Ottawa—Vanier to come out and watch the Ottawa Champions knock it out of the park.

Canadian Heritage

    Mr. Speaker, I rise today to talk about the importance of seeing our young people express themselves by grabbing a pen, a microphone, or a camera to tell their stories, and to tell our stories.
     This past Thursday, I attended the short film festival for youth at Le Trait d'Union community centre in Longueuil. This was just a few streets away from the Gentilly elementary school, which a young man named Xavier Dolan attended in the 1990s.
    I am extremely proud to speak on behalf of everyone in Longueuil and Saint-Hubert, and everyone here in the House, I am sure, to acknowledge this great Quebec director and his triumph at the Cannes Film Festival for his latest film, It's Only the End of the World, which won the Grand Prix. This recognition reminds us how important our cultural industries are, since they nurture and develop our talents and protect our distinct identity.
    I ask all sector stakeholders and the Minister of Canadian Heritage to rise to the collective challenge and commit to protecting our space in the global mosaic and allow future Xavier Dolans to proudly represent us in 20 years.


Disability Awareness Week

    Mr. Speaker, I am excited about a new program that is having a positive impact on youth with a mobility disability in my riding and throughout New Brunswick. The Transition NB program, created by Ability New Brunswick, is helping youth with a mobility disability access training, post-secondary education, and employment.
     New Brunswick has the second-highest rate of disability in Canada at 16.4% of the population. Persons with a disability in Canada have much lower education and labour market participation rates than the general population.
    Students with a disability are more likely to leave high school without a diploma compared to students without a disability, and only 13.2% of persons with a disability have a university degree.
     Ability New Brunswick is finding creative solutions to barriers like housing, transportation, and accessibility and helping youth throughout New Brunswick reach their full abilities and potential.



    As today marks the start of Disability Awareness Week in New Brunswick, I want to take this opportunity to thank disability organizations, their staff and volunteers for all they do—
    The hon. member for Central Okanagan—Similkameen—Nicola.


West Kelowna Warriors

    Mr. Speaker, everyone loves the underdog, and in my riding that underdog was the West Kelowna Warriors. People said they would never make it past the Penticton Vees. They did.
    Then, naysayers said they could not win the B.C. junior hockey league championships. They did again. Few picked them to win the Western Canada Cup. They not only won that, but they found a way to win the national junior championship RBC Cup.
     This achievement is about much more than winning hockey games. It is an example of what can happen when a group of young leaders believe in themselves and each other and never give up.
     Let us celebrate the success of the West Kelowna Warriors who not only had an amazing season but showed us all that, when we believe, we can achieve.



    Mr. Speaker, I am rising in the House today to congratulate an innovative company in Boisbriand, in my riding of Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, on its success.
    On May 19, His Excellency David Johnston presented the Governor General’s Innovation Award to Kinova, a company founded by its CEO, Charles Deguire.
    Kinova received this prestigious award to recognize the success of the JACO robotic arm, which offers Canadians with upper-body mobility restrictions more autonomy, control, and range of motion, as well as improved mental well-being.
    I invite the House to reiterate its confidence in Canadians' innovation and congratulate Charles Deguire and his team at Kinova for helping people with reduced mobility become more autonomous.
    Congratulations to the entire Kinova team.


Congress of Black Women of Canada

    Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to rise today to recognize the Congress of Black Women of Canada first founded in 1973 by Kay Livingstone. In 1985, my local Mississauga and area chapter was formed, and I am proud to say that more than 30 years later, two of the chapter's original founders, Faye Schepmyer and Madeline Edwards, are still very active today. They are champions of education. They offer annual scholarships, EQAO tutoring, and a summer and March break camp.
    These two exceptional Canadian women and their organization are also champions of social housing. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the opening of Camille's Place, an 82-unit apartment complex that the Mississauga chapter actively manages in order to address the social and economic needs of women of the region of Peel.
    I invite all members to pay tribute to the Congress of Black Women of Canada's Mississauga and area chapter for its incredible work and dedication to our community.

450 Tactical Helicopter Squadron

    Mr. Speaker, it was a historic moment recently for the flight crew of the 450 Tactical Helicopter Squadron operating one of Canada's new CH-147F Chinook helicopters, in responding to the wildfires in Fort McMurray, Alberta.
    The 450 Tactical Helicopter Squadron's home base is Garrison Petawawa, in the heart of the beautiful upper Ottawa valley.
     May 6 marked the first time a CH-147F Chinook helicopter has been deployed in a Canadian domestic humanitarian operation, flying in 8,200 pounds of food, water, and other goods to the Fort McKay First Nation.
    Chinook helicopters provided much-needed strategic lift during the conflict in Afghanistan, off the bomb-laden roads. Helicopters save lives.
     On behalf of the flight crews of the 450 Tactical Helicopter Squadron, 4th Canadian Division Support Base Petawawa, I thank Canada for providing the necessary equipment to do the job, for either here at home to aid with emergency relief, or overseas, whatever the task may be.


Steven MacKinnon

    Mr. Speaker, today I pay tribute to Steven MacKinnon, a pioneer of ecological farming in P.E.I., who died suddenly at his home in New Argyle at the untimely age of 53.
    Steven was a seventh generation farmer, farming the land settled by the MacKinnon family in 1808. He was passionate about issues affecting the family farm and was unafraid to stand up for what he felt was right. Yet he respected the views of others and enjoyed energetic debates.
    Steven was a visionary, being one of the first farmers to farm in an ecological manner as a way to promote environmental stewardship. Active in the National Farmers Union since his teenage days, he served in many roles and at the time of his passing was district director in Prince Edward Island.
    He will be missed by many in the agriculture sector, environmental organizations, community groups, and, of course, his family. He leaves behind his greatest love, his daughter Janell, and other family members. Our condolences.

Brooklin Spring Fair

    Mr. Speaker, this weekend is the 105th Brooklin Spring Fair in my riding of Whitby. What started as a small agricultural community gathering now welcomes more than 30,000 visitors each year.
    The fair has stayed true to its agricultural roots and fills an important role in the community in connecting Whitby's youth to the region's farm-focused past and educating them about the vital role farms and farmers in the community. In recent years, it has further expanded to focus on the importance of conservation and environmental stewardship.
    None of this would be possible without the hard work and dedication of the board of directors and volunteers who work hard year-round to make the fair a success. Their commitment to civic engagement is an example to us all and I thank them for all they do in the community. Whether at the parade, the dunk tank, or the pie-eating contest, I am sure I will see them at the fair.

Scleroderma Awareness Month

    Mr. Speaker, June begins this week and so does Scleroderma Awareness Month.
     What is scleroderma? It is a progressive and chronic connective tissue disorder that can attack internal organs, literally shutting them down one at a time. Other symptoms include weeping ulcers and serious skin deterioration.
    As many members of the House know, as I have spoken about it before, I watched my mother suffer from scleroderma, and it was heartbreaking. Unfortunately, she is not the only strong woman to be afflicted with scleroderma because the disease overwhelmingly targets women. In fact, almost 80% of sufferers are women.
    What is alarming is that incidence of scleroderma is on the rise. However, the good news is that new research on therapeutic measures is making a tangible difference and we are hopeful of a cure on the horizon.
    I would like to recognize Maureen Sauve, who has been a relentless, passionate, and selfless champion and leader at the national and provincial levels with the Scleroderma Society. What we need now is more government involvement and funding to help bring home a cure, stem the tide of increase, and assure the women and men suffering that the Government of Canada stands with them, this month and every month.

London Knights

    Mr. Speaker, I understand you are something of a hockey fan and therefore it brings me great pleasure to let you know that the London Knights won the 2016 Memorial Cup last night.
     Yesterday, the Knights defeated the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies in epic fashion to capture a national junior hockey championship. Matthew Tkachuk scored in overtime to secure London its second ever Memorial Cup. This was not a typical championship. It was a display of sporting dominance. The Knights won the cup with a 4-0 record, outscored opponents 23-8, and with last night's victory, won its 17th straight game.
     The Knights is an extraordinary junior hockey franchise. The Hunter family, led by Dale, Mark, and their father Dick, has transformed this club into one of the top teams in all of junior hockey. With 9,000 fans coming to each home game, hockey in London and the Knights are synonymous.
    I congratulate the team and the Hunter family.

Automobile Industry

    Mr. Speaker, southwestern Ontario is the heart of Canada's auto sector, providing good jobs for tens of thousands of families in our communities. However, over the past decade, Canada has lost over 400,000 manufacturing jobs, with over 260,000 of those lost in Ontario.
     Last month, auto industry leaders from business, labour, and academia gathered in Windsor for a policy and solutions forum. They reiterated calls for a national auto strategy that would attract investment, support research and innovation, and sustain good jobs. For years, our auto sector has worked collaboratively and has been united in its call for a national strategy. Our region knows how to work together like no other, because we share a vision for a stronger future.
    Last week in Japan, the Prime Minister promoted auto investment in Canada. However, if the Liberal government is serious about supporting Canada's auto sector, it needs to say no to the job-killing TPP and implement a national auto strategy.
    As the elected representative for Essex, I will do everything I can to get the job done.


Conservative Party National Convention

    Mr. Speaker, this past weekend the Conservative Party gathered in Vancouver for our national convention. While many of the pundits predicted a sombre affair, Conservatives took the opportunity to look forward. Our convention featured vigorous discussion, questioning of the status quo, and debate over the direction of our party. This convention was nothing short of inspiring.
    Additionally, our convention this weekend was an open affair, with policy debates and discussions all open to the media. We showed that the Conservative grassroots were alive and well, as more than 3,000 people were on hand to participate.
    Throughout the weekend, the Conservative Party showed how proud it was to be the party of hard-working Canadians. In opposition, our party is strong. We will continue to work hard every day to make Canada a better place.


14th Éloizes Awards Ceremony

    Mr. Speaker, on May 7, I had the great privilege of attending the 14th Éloizes awards ceremony, which recognizes artistic excellence in Acadia and was held at the Arthur-J.-LeBlanc Centre in Dieppe, New Brunswick. This multidisciplinary event celebrates excellence in various artistic disciplines and pays tribute to those who give fresh impetus to the development of modern Acadia.
    In addition to celebrating the arts and homegrown artists, this event also showcases artists from the region, introduces their work to the public and allows them to garner an audience. In my opinion, the public is the biggest winner.
    As the member for Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, it gives me great pleasure to support this project. I am proud to be a member of a government that continues to invest in this type of project, which is vitally important to the francophone and Acadian community in the greater Moncton area.


[Oral Questions]


Democratic Reform

    Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Democratic Institutions backed down on the weekend on the issue of electoral reform.
     She said, “It means that there needs to be a conversation in the House of Commons including all parties.” Naturally, we agree with her, but she must go even further. I invite the minister to open up to the public.
    Will the Prime Minister hold a referendum so that all Canadians can have a say on electoral reform? A referendum is required.


    Mr. Speaker, we are absolutely committed to ensuring that the consultations we have on a pan-Canadian basis hear from all Canadians on how they want to modernize and improve our electoral system.
    I encourage the members opposite to participate in that discussion. I have not heard any ideas or thoughts about how they want to modernize that system yet, but it is important they put those forward. I really invite all members of the House to engage in that process.
    Mr. Speaker, all Canadians must have the opportunity to express their opinion on electoral reform.
    This weekend, the Minister of Democratic Institutions said, “As far as any changes around democratic reform, we’re not going to proceed with any changes unless we have broad support.”
    We have a good idea for the broad support: have a referendum.
    Mr. Speaker, let me talk about what we will not do.
    Last time major democratic changes were introduced, it was by the Conservatives. It was the Fair Elections Act, which disenfranchised many voters. There were no consultations that occurred during that process. They did not engage Canadians.
    We want to do things differently. We want to ensure that the voices of Canadians are heard, that they are given the proper opportunity to be involved in modernizing their system. This was a clear campaign promise we made in the last election. More than 60% of Canadians voted for parties that said they wanted change. We are committed to making that change happen.


    Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Democratic Institutions also said, “So Canadians can rest assured that unless we have their broad buy-in, we're not moving forward with any changes.”
    Perhaps voting Canadians and those who contributed to greater voter participation in the last election because we did a good job want to keep the current electoral system.
    Will the Prime Minister recognize that the best way to find out what Canadians want is to hold a referendum?



    Mr. Speaker, we are absolutely committed to ensuring that the support of Canadians is behind the proposals we bring forward.
    The process we are going to engage, of talking to Canadians from coast to coast, not just about changing our voting system but looking at electronic voting, looking at the possibility of mandatory voting, recognizing that in a modern age our electoral systems, like the rest of the world, need to evolve, is something to which we are committed.
    I would ask the member opposite to engage constructively in that process, to engage in that dialogue, and work with us to create a better electoral system.
    Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister tried to seize total control of the House of Commons just because he did not get his own way.
    Motion No. 6 was only withdrawn after a massive backlash. However, it is not his only undemocratic attempt to seize control.
     Motion No. 5 sets up the committee to alter Canada's electoral system in the Liberals' favour. It gives Liberals a majority on the committee, ensures that the Liberal majority in the House will control the bill, and the final say will be made by the Liberal cabinet.
    Will the Liberals do the right thing and withdraw this motion as well?
    Mr. Speaker, the motion to create the committee is coming forward.
    There is going to be ample opportunity to hear from each and every member of the House around his or her ideas to improve and modernize our electoral system. The reality is that in the last election Canadians looked at the problems of the past, looked at the decade that preceded the last election, and said, in huge measure, that the status quo was not good enough, that we needed to do better.
    That is precisely what we are working on. That is precisely what the committee is getting to the heart of. I encourage members to engage in that process.
    Mr. Speaker, the minister thinks that tracking a topic on Twitter is a better way of consulting Canadians than a referendum; #logical?
     Their motion gives Liberals on the committee total control of the process to fundamentally change the way Canadians vote; #thatseemsfair.
     We know the Liberals do not respect Parliament, and now we can see that they do not respect Canadians either; #arrogance #outoftouch #disrespect.
     If the minister truly wants widespread consultations, could she finally agree to holding a #referendum?
    Mr. Speaker, I hear the hashtags opposite. I hear the member wanting to use different forums. Obviously there are many different ways that people can engage on this issue.
    There will be forums held in nearly every riding. I encourage members to host town halls. I encourage members to engage with their constituents. We will have a digital portal where Canadians' voices can be heard. It will be a dynamic conversation, and as we said, we will ensure that the will of Canadians is behind whatever we put forward.
    Help us to change the status quo, improve our system, and modernize our electoral system to bring us into the 21st century.


Physician-Assisted Dying

    Mr. Speaker, more and more people are concerned about whether Bill C-14 on medical assistance in dying is constitutional.
    On the weekend, we heard from some of the Liberal Party faithful, former prime minister Paul Martin, and former Liberal leader Bob Rae. The government cannot get such an important issue wrong. It is not too late. This evening, Bill C-14 can be amended.
    Will the Liberals work with the opposition to ensure that Bill C-14 complies with the charter and the Supreme Court decision?


    Mr. Speaker, we are committed to moving forward with Bill C-14 and have engaged very broadly on this really complex and deeply personal issue.
    We have a deadline of June 6 to meet that has been directed by the Supreme Court of Canada. We are committed to having in place, it is our responsibility as parliamentarians, a legal framework in this country that ensures we find the right balance between personal autonomy, protection of the vulnerable, and ensuring there is access in this country.


    Mr. Speaker, the government needs to stop giving incomplete information. There is no rush.
    The professional associations are prepared. They have directives in place to protect the vulnerable. We need to get this right.
    The government is insisting on passing a bill that a number of experts have deemed unconstitutional. We are talking about charter rights. The government knows very well that its law will be challenged if it is not amended.
    When will the government work with the opposition to bring the bill in line with the charter?



    Mr. Speaker, we are committed to working with all parliamentarians and have done so on this piece of legislation as we move forward.
    We have the utmost respect for the Supreme Court of Canada. We are ensuring that we do everything possible to meet the deadline of June 6.
    We have the utmost confidence that this is the best public policy approach to medical assistance in dying in this country right now. We will ensure that we can move forward with that legal framework to provide access as well as the protection of the vulnerable.
    Mr. Speaker, the problem with the minister's response is that the Alberta Court of Appeal, the Canadian Bar Association, Barreau du Québec, constitutional experts, and now even former Prime Minister Martin all agree, Bill C-14 in its present form is likely not constitutional.
    Even if the bill is passed next week, it will be tied up in legal challenges for years to come, and costly, exhausting court battles for suffering Canadians who just want to see their legal rights vindicated.
    Why will the government not do the right thing and work with us to get the bill right the first time?
    Mr. Speaker, we are committed to ensuring that we have in place by the Supreme Court deadline of June 6 a legal framework for medical assistance in dying in this country.
    I know that there is an incredible diversity of opinion around this incredibly complex and challenging issue. As legislators, we need to answer the 36 million people who live in this country in terms of putting in place a regime.
    Again, I am confident that this is the best approach for Canada in terms of medical assistance in dying right now, and it is the first step.
    Mr. Speaker, government members keep hiding behind the June 6 deadline, as they call it, as an excuse, but now even former Liberal leaders, Bob Rae and Paul Martin agree there is nothing to fear.
    If this bill does not pass next week, the Carter decision itself provides the criteria for determining who is eligible and the provinces are now prepared and have already released guidelines for their physicians.
    We have the time we need to fix this, so will the government stop ramming through this deeply flawed bill and work with us to get it right?
    Mr. Speaker, this question gives me an opportunity to explain why it is so important that we get a piece of legislation in place at the soonest possible date.
    Without legislation in place, health care providers will not have the legal framework that they require to proceed. They will be advised to seek legal consults. This will cause serious problems in accessing. Not only that, the Canadian Pharmacists Association has made it clear that there will be no protection for pharmacists to dispense medication.
    We need to get this legislation in place as soon as possible.

Democratic Reform

    Mr. Speaker, on electoral reform the Liberals keep claiming that they are listening to Canadians but three-quarters of Canadians want a referendum on any changes to their system of democracy. It seems that Canadians have already spoken.
    Will the Liberals drop the lip service and listen to Canadians and hold a referendum?
    Mr. Speaker, Canadians have spoken. Over 60% spoke, voting for parties that said we need to modernize our electoral system. Canadians stood up in the last election and said they needed a system that would better reflect their will, that would better enfranchise their vote, and that would give them a better voice in our democratic process. We are committed to exactly that.
     I would encourage the member opposite to work with us in this process. Let us improve our democracy. Let us get it done.
    No, Mr. Speaker, Canadians have spoken. Seventy-five per cent of them want a referendum.
    The Minister of Democratic Institutions claims that a referendum is not the best way to consult Canadians but at the same time the minister is speaking out of the other side of her mouth by saying that she is listening to all Canadians.
    How better to know that one has the broad-based support of all Canadians than with a referendum?
    Will the Liberals stop pulling the wool over Canadians' eyes and hold a referendum, yes or no?
    Mr. Speaker, public consultation comes in many forms. The ability to engage Canadians happens in many different ways. We are absolutely committed to making sure that all Canadians' voices are heard in this process.
    What we want to do right now, and I would encourage the member to join us in the process, is to have a discussion on exactly how we are going to do it. Right now, I do not even know what the member would want a question on.
    It is important to posit ideas, to have a debate and a discussion about how we can improve our system and once we get to that point let us look at the next steps.


    Mr. Speaker, I would like to remind the parliamentary secretary that his government was elected by 39% of voters, not 60% as he has been saying.
    For the past few weeks, the Minister of Democratic Institutions has repeatedly stated that the referendum option is not on the table. This despite the fact that 73% of Canadians are in favour of a referendum.
    Will the Minister of Democratic Institutions and her government finally listen to Canadians and hold a referendum on the electoral system; #referendum?



    Mr. Speaker, we were not the only party to campaign on the idea of changing our electoral system, on modernizing our electoral and democratic institutions. The NDP did. The Green Party did. There were many different parties that posited this idea and in cumulative total that reaches more than 60%.
    The bigger point here is that there is a historic opportunity to improve the way Canadians interact with their democracy, to empower them and give them a chance to have a stronger voice in this process. I would encourage the member to work with us in that process, to begin that process of debate and ideas. Let us start it right now.


    Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister made it abundantly clear that the 2015 election would be the last to employ the first-past-the-post system and that the status quo is not an option. However, during the Liberal convention this weekend, the Minister of Democratic Institutions indicated that the government would not proceed with changes without the support of the people.
    Will the minister commit to holding a referendum on a subject as important as the electoral system to find out whether there is public support?


    Mr. Speaker, from the onset we have been committed to engaging Canadians to ensure that any proposal we bring forward has broad support from the Canadian public. Let us remember the objective we are trying to achieve here. The objective we are trying to achieve is to enfranchise voters, to give them more power, more say, a better spot at the table in our Canadian democratic system.
    I would offer to members opposite who clearly are engaged in this issue, who clearly want to have a discussion about it, let us talk, let us have an opportunity to look at what the options are to improve our system and get to work on it.
    Mr. Speaker, maybe the parliamentary secretary could sort out some of the confusion left by his minister this weekend when she contradicted herself by saying on the one hand, “I haven't been persuaded that referendum alone is the best tool that we can use in the 21st century”, but on the other hand she said, “And we will not proceed with any changes [to how Canadians vote] without the broad buy-in of the people of this country”.
    How do we get a broad buy-in if we do not actually consult broadly? How do we do this without having a referendum?
    Mr. Speaker, to get broad buy-in we have to do what frankly has not occurred in the past, which is to reach out to Canadians in ridings across the country, to have real and genuine conversations around how to improve our democratic institutions, to take this historic opportunity to move our democracy to a new place where we empower voters to have a stronger say in our system.
    In order to do that we have to talk about options and dialogue and something other than the status quo. That is what I have not heard from members opposite. I have not heard them positing ideas on how we can improve our system. I would like them to please start participating in this debate.
    Mr. Speaker, at some point the Liberals are actually going to have to come forward with some new proposal instead of suggesting everyone else should do it. When they do that we want to have a referendum. It is not just we who want a referendum, 73% of Canadians want a referendum. Sooner or later, there will be a proposal from the Liberals saying, “Here is the new electoral system we suggest”. When that happens, will there be a referendum, as 73% of Canadians want, or will they deny Canadians their democratic say?
    Mr. Speaker, I realize this may not be something the member has seen a lot of, and we need to see a lot more of, which is the ideas brought forward by government are informed by not only broad-based consultations with the public but also all parties in the House. It is certainly our desire in this process to have each of the parties participating and helping form the modernization of our electoral system.
    To get to the point where we have something to talk about we need them to engage in that dialogue, bring forward their ideas, and move away from just hanging on to the status quo.


    Mr. Speaker, the government wants to change the electoral system, but it does not really know how to change it, so it is making things up as it goes along. Nobody knows how long this will take. All we know is that the key players are a bunch of confused Liberals.
    The minister says she does not want to change anything unless she has broad public buy-in. She obviously has no idea where she wants to go with this. It is hard to have faith in the process when the Liberals have been dragging their feet for seven months and have stacked their committee with Liberals.
    Will the government fix things by changing the committee membership so that no political party has a majority?



    Mr. Speaker, it is true that we do not know where this process is going to conclude. The party opposite may already have an idea of where it is going to go, but we want to actually engage in a meaningful dialogue that finds middle ground and the best solution. I imagine that solution should and must evolve as the dialogue and input from Canadians take place. If we simply step forward and say that this is the system we want, here it is, and we put it to a vote, frankly, that is how things were done, but that is not how things should be done. We need to work in an inclusive manner and work together to find the best system.
    Mr. Speaker, if that were the case we would have to ask why Liberals stacked Liberal members on the committee picking the new voting system. Details matter, and Liberals have proposed a system in which Liberals could unilaterally change our voting system.
    On the weekend, the minister said she is looking forward to, and I quote “broad support”. Two-thirds of the House were elected on a promise of electoral reform. Some have accused the minister of damaging the credibility of the process with her platitudes and vague answers to straightforward questions. Therefore, we implore the Liberals to answer this one simple question. Are the Liberals actually willing to go it alone and unilaterally change our voting system, or will they require the support of at least one recognized party in the House?
    Mr. Speaker, I have had many occasions to talk and work with the member opposite. I know that he is very earnest in his desire to improve our electoral system. I know that he has many ideas he wants to bring forward to the process. Let me tell him that in this process certainly each and every one of us is going to be given the opportunity to vote on that system. Each and every one of us is going to be given an opportunity to give input to it. Each and every one of us has a responsibility to engage our constituents and Canadians, on a pan-Canadian basis, to make sure their voices are heard. I look forward to working with him on it.


    Mr. Speaker, on Friday, Finance Canada confirmed what we always said would happen, that the government took a Conservative surplus and turned it into a Liberal deficit. We know how this works. They had the best March madness ever. It was fantastic. Therefore, what we want to know is whether cabinet ministers were actually urged to splurge in order to make sure that the finance minister got the deficit he predicted.
    Mr. Speaker, as I have been saying in the House for many months, the government before us left us with a deficit. The “Fiscal Monitor”, this past Friday, told us in black and white what is absolutely the case. Due to the economic realities left by the measures from the previous government we have a deficit, a deficit from the previous government.
    Now the question is, what are we going to do moving forward? We are going to invest to make the future rosier than the past for Canadians by focusing on growth.
    Mr. Speaker, the “Fiscal Monitor” confirms the fact that the Liberals inherited a surplus from the Conservative government. It also confirms, though sadly, that just one short month, at the very end of the year, they were able to turn that surplus into a deficit.
    While they preach the gospel of deficit spending, they stand alone because their G7 partners are still stuck on this whole balanced budget thing.
    Did the minister engineer this deficit? Is he just proving to Canadians that he can spend it as quickly as we left it for him?
    Mr. Speaker, facts matter. The facts are that the “Fiscal Monitor” shows us—
    Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
    Order. I am sure the minister appreciates the applause deeply. However, let us wait until he finishes his answer, please.
    The hon. Minister of Finance.
    Mr. Speaker, as I said, facts matter. I would urge the members on the other side to actually read the “Fiscal Monitor”. What they will find is that the government before us left us with a deficit. What they will find is that, as in previous years, revenues go down and expenses go up at the end of the year. This year revenues went down precipitously because of the measures of the previous government.
    That is the situation we face now. We are focused on how we are going to deal with what was left to us by the previous government.
    Mr. Speaker, the evidence continues to pile up that the finance minister has a serious problem when it comes to transparency. Page 7 of his own February economic update details how his Liberal spending spree was already well under way last year. Again in March he burned through billions in one month and has driven us into a deficit.
    Why does the finance minister refuse to take responsibility for his own deficits?


    Mr. Speaker, I would urge the member to actually go through the “Fiscal Monitor” line by line to find out the facts. When we take out the measures that we have put in, what we find is that the previous government left us with a deficit. It is absolutely clear, and it is something that they are going to need to look at and realize.
     We are going to do what Canadians asked us to do, which is to deal with what was left to us by the previous government. We are going to invest to make a real difference for Canadians in the future. We are improving our country through improved growth.
    Mr. Speaker, the issue here is transparency. The finance minister is cooking the books to suit his reckless political spending and agenda. He was left with a Conservative surplus. He did turn that into a Liberal deficit. The finance minister needs to come clean and show some transparency.
    Will he tell Canadians exactly how he spent $10 billion on the reckless Liberal schemes in March?
    Mr. Speaker, I would invite the member opposite to take a look at what has happened over the last number of years in March with the previous government. What happens is in March revenues go down. This year what happened was what has happened in previous years, only worse. The measures put in place by the previous government led revenues to go down at the end of the year, leaving us with a deficit. We are starting with a deficit left by the previous government and now we are making efforts to really improve our situation going forward.
    Canadians expect growth for this generation and the next generation, and we are going to deliver it.

Rail Transportation

    Mr. Speaker, the Transportation Safety Board is reporting more accidents, runaway trains, and other serious, preventable accidents, yet Transport Canada is delaying tougher measures that could stop not only disasters like Lac-Mégantic but 500 runaway trains over the past two decades. Transport inspectors and rail workers have called for strengthened controls and stepped-up inspection and enforcement. So far there has been nothing.
    When will the minister stop talking and start taking action to make our rail system safe?
    Mr. Speaker, yes, we have been taking action. I have been very clear since the beginning that rail safety is my top priority. In fact, I am very glad that in this last budget $143 million was put aside over three years for rail safety.
    Yes, we have taken measures. In fact, the member's party was present when we announced some of these measures. Therefore, we are taking rail safety very seriously. I have said it many times. The measures put in place since Lac-Mégantic are a beginning but they are not sufficient and we will be doing more for rail safety.


    Mr. Speaker, this is a priority. I went to Lac-Mégantic with my colleague from Sherbrooke last week, and I can say to the minister that the residents are not impressed with how this government is dragging its feet.
    The Lac-Mégantic tragedy was three years ago, and yet we still have a long way to go to ensure a safe rail system. The Transportation Safety Board of Canada is telling us that there have been more and more problems with runaway trains and that Transport Canada is not doing enough to improve safety procedures.
    Will the minister stop with the rhetoric and finally do something to guarantee a safe rail system?
    Mr. Speaker, I will repeat what I just said.
    I have the utmost respect for the Transportation Safety Board of Canada. We listen every time it makes any recommendations.
    As I have clearly stated, rail safety is my top priority. If my colleague would take a little time to look at the measures we have taken, he would see that we have already taken action. Is it enough? No. As we have said very clearly, additional measures are needed, and there is money in the budget for that purpose.
    We will address rail safety, because it is my top priority.

Aerospace Industry

    Mr. Speaker, the aerospace sector is one of the most innovative in the country. The industry includes more than 180,000 quality jobs in Canada. Bell Helicopter Textron Canada recently announced the relocation of assembly operations to Mirabel, Quebec, which will maintain and create about 100 jobs.
    Could the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development tell the House about the role played by the Government of Canada in relocating this assembly line?


    Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from Thérèse-De Blainville for his question.
    I am very proud of Bell Helicopter Textron Canada's decision to relocate its assembly line for the new helicopter to Quebec. We have worked with the Government of Quebec to create a positive business environment for companies. This collaboration has meant keeping 900 jobs and creating more than 100 new jobs.


    Mr. Speaker, every month that goes by under the leadership of the Liberal Party looks the same: deficit, deficit, deficit.
    Last Friday, we learned from the Department of Finance's monthly “Fiscal Monitor” that the government is running a $9-billion deficit. That same department said that the Conservative government left a surplus of $1 billion last November. We leave surpluses and the Liberals leave deficits.
    Will the Minister of Finance finally admit what all Canadians know? The Liberal government has completely lost control of the public purse. That is the reality.
    Mr. Speaker, the facts are now clear.
    The “Fiscal Monitor” has made two things very clear. The previous government left us a deficit. That is the situation. What is more, our level of growth is very low because of the measures taken by the previous government. Now, we are going to make investments to improve the situation for the future.
    Mr. Speaker, the “Fiscal Monitor”, a publication of the Department of Finance, indicated that there was a $1-billion surplus. The latest edition shows that there is now a $9-billion deficit. That is what officials are saying. If the Minister of Finance does not believe his officials, does he at least agree with his Prime Minister, who said just a few days ago that the $30-billion deficit was an estimate and that it could be worse?
    Can the Minister of Finance assure us that the deficit will not be worse than what he promised?
    Mr. Speaker, as I have said a number of times in the House, at the end of the year, revenues are lower and expenses are higher. That is nothing out of the ordinary. That was the situation in previous years. Now, things are more difficult because of the measures taken by the previous government. It is a different situation. The Conservatives left us with a deficit. That is why we are going to make investments to improve our economic growth.


    Mr. Speaker, I do not think Canadians realized that sunny ways would be quite this expensive.
    Here are the facts. The Conservatives left the Liberals a surplus. Canadians were enjoying the lowest tax burden in 50 years, and in one month the Liberals spent a $10-billion deficit, obliterating the Conservative surplus.
    Why has the Minister of Finance been so reckless with the tax dollars of hard-working Canadians?
    Mr. Speaker, I would invite the member opposite to actually look at the “Fiscal Monitor”. What he would find is that the government before us left us with a deficit. Revenues are lower and expenses are higher in the last month. The only difference is that this year the revenues are even lower in March as a result of the measures put in place by the previous government. That is the situation we face.
    This is why Canadians decided they wanted a new path: a path towards growth, a path towards making investments, and a path towards a better future for themselves and their families. We are going to do that for Canadians.
    An hon. member: Oh, oh!
    I know the member for Abbotsford is anxious to take part in the debate, but he can wait for his turn.
    The hon. member for Foothills.
    Mr. Speaker, I could just give him my question. It seems like he is ready.
    I know the Liberals are in denial about the Conservatives and the surplus, but it is there. Those are the facts. It is clear they do not understand economics and they do not understand the consequences of deficit spending. They can deny it all they want.
    They talk about decisions made by science. Here are the facts. We left them a surplus, and the spending habits of the Minister of Finance are simply out of control. Why is the finance minister doing what every other Canadian knows is dangerous, running a budget on a credit card? When will the finance minister admit his spending is out of control?


    Mr. Speaker, we understand very clearly what inappropriate spending can do because we are witnesses to what happened in the last government: tens of billions of dollars of spending with the lowest growth rate in decades. We are faced with that now, as well as with a deficit left to us by the previous government because of the low growth that it left us with.
    Something needed to be done and Canadians understood that. That is why they chose a new government that was going to be optimistic and invest in the future of our country, a new government that is going to bring in a new era of growth so that we can turn the page on this difficult time.


Small Business

    Mr. Speaker, during the election campaign, the Liberals promised to keep the tax cuts for small businesses, but now they are breaking that promise and cancelling those tax cuts in the omnibus bill. The government is going to take $2.2 billion away from the businesses that create the most jobs in Canada. Fortunately, it still has a chance to keep its election promise by voting in favour of the NDP's amendment to reinstate the tax cut for SMEs.
    Will the Liberals join us in helping the best job creators in the country and vote in favour of our amendment?


    Mr. Speaker, small businesses are the backbone of the economy. Just this morning, I was at Ottawa 2017 where I spoke to the tourism industry because we know that is where growth can occur. We have to support the tourism industry. We have to support small businesses as well.
    That is why we are investing in the middle class. Middle-class Canadians are our small business owners and they are our customers. By putting money into the pockets of Canadians, they can support our small business owners and they can support the products and services that they offer, because small business owners would prefer increased revenues over decreased taxes any day.

Veterans Affairs

    Mr. Speaker, the current Liberal government promised during the election to restore Canada's historic relationship with our veterans. First and foremost was the pledge to end the Conservatives' court battle that would deprive veterans of the benefits they deserve. The Liberals promised to honour those benefits, but now we learn they are backtracking and again taking our veterans to court.
    Why are the Liberals punishing our veterans and forcing them to fight in court for the benefits they deserve and have earned in service to Canada?
    Mr. Speaker, as the member is aware, this lawsuit emerged under the previous government. I can say that this government is moving forward on treating veterans with care, compassion, and respect. We are moving forward on an aggressive mandate that is ensuring financial benefits to them. We saw that in budget 2016 with a $5.6-billion investment that would improve the lives of our most disabled veterans and ensure financial security for them and their families.

National Defence

    Mr. Speaker, over the weekend General Jonathan Vance acknowledged that today's conflicts do not have the characteristics of those in the past. The chief of the defence staff recognized that one of Canada's signature peacekeeping missions in the Sinai is growing more violent. As well, Canadian troops are now on the front lines in the fight against ISIS in Iraq.
    However, the Prime Minister said we are only training Iraqi troops. Why is the Prime Minister misinforming Canadians about these dangerous combat missions?
    Mr. Speaker, General Vance has actually done us all a service in pointing out that the conflicts that will be going on now and in the future will largely be conflicts that will not get easily resolved; hence, the important emphasis on assisting, training, advising, and intelligence. That is what the minister and the chief of the defence staff have been emphasizing as they engage further in Iraq.
    Mr. Speaker, reporters from Iraq noted that Canadian troops are on the front line in preparation for the coalition's efforts to take the city of Fallujah. As Roméo Dallaire said, “Canada's soldiers are first and foremost [combat] specialists”. The CBC acknowledged that Conservatives were on the right track. It reported, “As for ISIS, it was the Liberals and the NDP who were out of step with public opinion”.
    Why is the Prime Minister misleading Canadians by saying that this is not a combat mission, but actually has our troops in combat against ISIS?


    Mr. Speaker, in response to the hon. member's question, I would quote the chief of the defence staff, who said that we are in a state of “armed conflict” with a “non-state actor”. There is no doubt that this is a mission of significance. This is a mission where there will be danger. Our coalition partners have welcomed us into the theatre, and we are providing really useful and effective services to our coalition partners.


    Mr. Speaker, by withdrawing our CF-18s in order to keep an election promise, the Liberals are putting our soldiers' lives at risk, even more so now that we are on the front line of the offensive in Fallujah. Officers with the U.S. Army have confirmed that our special forces are on the front line. There is no doubt that our troops will face enemy fire.
    Can the minister tell us how we went from a training mission to a combat mission and whether our troops are risking their lives on the front line?


    Mr. Speaker, the goal of this mission is to achieve long-term success through self-sustainable security. Hence, we are in a mission that advises, trains, assists, and provides intelligence. That is the way forward in order to minimize the unwanted consequences of this conflict. As we go forward, I would encourage the hon. member to support our troops as we engage in this conflict with a non-state actor.

Sri Lanka

    Mr. Speaker, two weeks ago, torrential downpours and landslides in Sri Lanka created a humanitarian crisis across the island. Over 600,000 people have been displaced from their homes, and nearly 250,000 people are stuck in emergency evacuation centres. The crisis is ongoing and individual victims need our help. Over 100 people are still reported missing and 100 more have been confirmed dead.
    Could the hon. Minister of International Development advise the House of Canada's efforts to assist these victims?


    I would like to begin by offering our deepest condolences to the people of Sri Lanka and expressing Canada's solidarity with them.
    Our government acted swiftly by making a $310,000 contribution, which helped Oxfam Canada and the Red Cross provide water, sanitation and hygiene services, household items, living allowances, and protection to some 50,000 affected families. We continue to monitor the situation.


Intergovernmental Relations

    Mr. Speaker, over the past week, I have heard from many Canadians who strongly support our “free the beer” campaign. If we can free the beer by removing internal trade barriers, we can also create jobs and create growth in our economy without adding debt. Will the government raise the Comeau decision to the Supreme Court and free the beer?
    Mr. Speaker, I do share the enthusiasm by the member opposite, and I welcome expanded opportunities for alcohol between provinces and territories. This is a matter that I have raised with my provincial and territorial counterparts as we negotiate on a comprehensive agreement on internal trade. This is a broad agreement where we want to reduce barriers and harmonize regulations. It is about growing the economy and making sure that we benefit, not only businesses but consumers. I look forward to working with the member opposite on this file.


Canada Post

    Mr. Speaker, instead of keeping their promise to restore home mail delivery, the Liberals chose to create a committee to examine this issue. The problem is that we know nothing about the procedure or what this committee will do.
    We learned that the deadline to make submissions is around June 23 for groups and some time in July for individuals. As of Friday, there was nothing anywhere. When the NDP called out the government, a date appeared on the website, as if by magic.
    Is this the kind of transparency the Liberals promised us?
    Mr. Speaker, the national president of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers said that the review of Canada Post was welcome news for Canada Post workers and that the government had a historic opportunity to reinvent Canada Post.
    Canada Post management indicated that it supported the review of postal services in Canada and that it looked forward to this national discussion.
    The union supports the review, management supports the review, Canadians across the country support the review—



    The hon. member for Northwest Territories.


    Mr. Speaker, my riding of the Northwest Territories has significant infrastructure needs and faces particular challenges because of our northern climate.
    In April, experts from Canada and the United States gathered in Inuvik to discuss new techniques for infrastructure projects at the International Symposium of Permafrost Scientists. One of the projects they discussed was the Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk highway that has just finished its third construction season.
    Could the Minister of Infrastructure and Communities please update the House on the progress of this important project?
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague, the hon. member for Northwest Territories for his tireless efforts on behalf of northern communities.
    Our government has made unprecedented commitments to support public infrastructure. The Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk highway will help to connect people, create jobs, and support economic development in the north.
    We are very encouraged by the progress of this project, and I look forward to touring this exciting project with my colleague in the future.

International Development

    Mr. Speaker, the Liberals are all over the place on international development.
    The minister has launched yet another review and another consultation to determine how Canada can refocus its international assistance. On one hand, the Liberals say they are reviewing the system, but at the same time, the minister keeps promising Canadian money at the international forums.
    Does this not make the Liberals' consultative process a big sham?


    Mr. Speaker, I am very proud to have participated in three international summits recently. One was on the status of women, another was on humanitarian aid, and the third was on health.
    My opposition colleague will not be surprised to learn that, as in past years, we pledged contributions to the Central Emergency Response Fund to ensure that Canada will always be among the first to respond to disasters. We also pledged to respond to major humanitarian organizations' annual appeals.

Dairy Industry

    Mr. Speaker, today, dairy producers began a three-day tractor trek from Quebec City to Ottawa to remind the government of its election promises.
    They are travelling across Quebec to protest the importation of diafiltered milk, which robs them of thousands of dollars every week. They are criss-crossing Quebec to remind the government that compensation was promised when international agreements such as the trans-Pacific partnership and the European Union agreement were signed.
    When will the 40 Liberal members from Quebec speak out in support of Quebec's dairy producers?
    Mr. Speaker, our government created supply management, and our government will defend it.
    As promised, we are meeting with industry stakeholders from across the country. Over the past few weeks, we have listened to them and had many very productive discussions. We will help develop a sustainable, long-term strategy for the entire sector.

Forestry Industry

    Mr. Speaker, on the softwood lumber issue, Quebec reaffirmed last week that our forestry regime is fully compliant with NAFTA in every respect and that there was absolutely no reason for Ottawa to accept the imposition of any quotas or tariffs on our exports.
    However, in order to bail out British Columbia, the government is currently negotiating a protectionist agreement with the Americans, even though it could kill Quebec's forestry industry.
    Will the Minister of International Trade clearly tell the Americans that our lumber is not subsidized and that she will never agree to a protectionist agreement, unless Quebec is exempt from it?
    Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for her question.
    Our government recognizes the importance of forestry to Quebec and to Canada. In fact, I am meeting with representatives from the Quebec sector next Monday, in Montreal. I spoke with my U.S. counterpart, Michael Froman, about this specific issue two weeks ago at the APEC meeting. We are working hard to reach a deal that will be good for Canada and for Quebec.


    Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development confirmed that he wants to automatically sign up seniors for the guaranteed income supplement by no later than 2018.
    As this has been a long-standing demand from seniors and from the Bloc Québécois, we must therefore commend him. However, it has taken the federal government a quarter century to do it.
    Since those affected have already waited too long, will the minister promise to make payment of the GIS automatic in the next tax season?


    Mr. Speaker, this gives me the opportunity to also thank my colleague for all her efforts in recent years and to especially thank the FADOQ network for bringing this very important matter to our government's attention.
    In addition to substantially increasing the guaranteed income supplement, restoring the retirement eligibility age to 65, and investing $200 million in housing for seniors, we are announcing today that the automatic enrolment process for the guaranteed income supplement will be completed in 2018.


Presence in Gallery

    I would like to draw to the attention of hon. members the presence in the Gallery of His Excellency Milan Štech, President of the Senate of the Czech Republic.
    Some hon. members: Hear, hear!


Business of the House

    Mr. Speaker, I would simply like to inform the House that next Thursday, June 2, will be an allotted day.


    Mr. Speaker, a few minutes ago the Minister of Finance said, “facts are the facts”. We agree with that.


    For that reason I ask for the consent of the House to table the “Fiscal Monitor”, a Department of Finance publication.
    It states, “April to November 2015: budgetary surplus of $1.0 billion”.
    Does the hon. member have the unanimous consent of the House to table this document?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.
    Some hon. members: No.


[Routine Proceedings]


Government Response to Petitions

    Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36(8) I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's response to 39 petitions.

Interparliamentary Delegations

    Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 34(1) I have the honour to present to the House, in both official languages, two reports of the Canadian delegation of the Canada-United States Inter-Parliamentary Group.
     The first concerns the annual national conference of the Council of State Governments (CSG), held in Nashville, Tennessee, United States of America, December 10 to 13, 2015.
    The second concerns the annual winter meeting of the National Governors Association, held in Washington, D.C., United States of America, February 19 to 22, 2016.


Committees of the House


    Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the fourth report of the Standing Committee on Finance in relation to main estimates 2016-17.

Extending the Time Limit for a Blood Sample Warrant Act (Helen's Law)

     He said: Mr. Speaker, I am proud today to introduce a private member's bill, Helen's law, which proposes to amend the Criminal Code of Canada.
    On February 28, 2005, Helen Sonja Francis, a registered nurse from Burnaby, B.C. and a single mother of two, was tragically killed in a car accident involving an impaired driver. Due to a power outage that day, a warrant to obtain a blood sample from the perpetrator was signed 13 minutes after the current four-hour time limit contained in the Criminal Code. As a result, all of the evidence collected was ruled inadmissible in court and Helen and her family were denied justice.
    For over 10 years now, Helen's brother, George Sojka, has tirelessly called on the government to fix our criminal justice system and gathered hundreds upon hundreds of signatures on a petition to Parliament. Helen's law would do exactly that by extending the time limit to obtain a blood sample warrant from four to six hours following an accident causing death where drug or alcohol consumption is suspected.
    It is a straightforward, long overdue change, and I hope the government will consider it.

     (Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Framework on Palliative Care in Canada Act

    She said: Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to bring forward my private member's bill on palliative care. In the previous session of Parliament, a parliamentary committee of all parties looked at the issue and came forward with recommendations. The bill is the result of that. It is a timely bill, especially in light of the Bill C-14 legislation. The committee that considered the Carter report stated that the request for physician-assisted death could not be truly voluntary if the option of proper palliative care was not available to alleviate a person's suffering.
    My bill provides a framework to implement consistent access for palliative care for all Canadians. I hope all parliamentarians on all sides of the House will support it.

     (Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Foreign Lobbyist Transparency Act

     She said: Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure, on behalf of the people of my riding of Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke and Canada, to introduce this bill, an act to amend the Lobbying Act (reporting obligations), to read as the foreign lobbyist transparency act. This legislation is about protecting Canadian jobs.
     Thousands of Canadians rely on the working forest for their livelihood. Canadians should be shocked to learn that for every dollar spent by our forestry industry that correctly points out Canada is a world leader in sustainable, environmentally sound forestry practices, opponents of the Canadian forestry industry spend a thousand dollars and more on spreading wrong information.
    Canadians do not know exactly how much money is spent to influence the attitudes of voters because much of the transfer of lobbying dollars is hidden. This legislation will shed light on something that threatens Canadian democracy.
    All Canadians have built something very special in our country. Any time there is a national discussion on any topic, be it the environment, forestry, mining, national defence, or anything else, Canadians have a right to know whose voice is being heard and why.
    Canadians need to know that foreigners have been secretly funding single or special interest groups whose lobbying efforts do not enjoy the support of regular hard-working Canadians. Many of these groups could not exist without foreign funding.
    In my riding of Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, and indeed across Canada, thousands of hard-working Canadians depend on their livelihood from the working forest. Misinformation jeopardizes those jobs. Canadians have a right to know the sources of funding for those groups that seek to take away jobs from Canadians.
    The foreign lobbyist transparency act would achieve financial transparency and improved accountability through the public reporting of payments made by foreigners to lobbyists.


    I would remind hon. members that the introduction and first reading of a bill is not the time to make the case for it; it is the time to basically describe, very briefly, what the bill is about.

     (Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)


Main Estimates, 2016-17 — Public Safety

    The following motion in the name of the hon. Leader of the Opposition was placed on the Order Paper.
    That, pursuant to Standing Order 81(4)(b), consideration by the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security of all Votes related to Public Safety in the Main Estimates for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2017, be extended beyond May 31, 2016.

    (Motion agreed to)



Auxiliary Police Officers  

    Mr. Speaker, I rise today to present a petition initiated by Mr. Bob Spiers of Vernon, B.C. and signed by Canadians from coast to coast to coast.
    The petitioners call on the Government of Canada to establish a tax credit for auxiliary police officers, similar to that already given to volunteer firefighters and search and rescue volunteers.

Physician-Assisted Death  

    Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to present a petition on behalf of my constituents.
     The petitioners note that life is sacred until death and that it is our duty to provide compassionate hospice care. They say that God is the author of life and death, that he will determine when suffering ends and that some can be economically motivated to end life.
    They call upon the House of Commons to prohibit euthanasia and assisted suicide.

The Environment  

    Mr. Speaker, I rise today to present electronic petition 128.
    The petitioners call on the Government of Canada to reject Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain expansion project proposal. They say that this project creates too much risk to land and surface waters, and aquifers along the route, and that the export of diluted bitumen by Kinder Morgan threatens the future of the planet through climate change.
    I hope the government takes this seriously.


    Mr. Speaker, I have two petitions to present today asking the House the Commons to pass legislation which would recognize pre-born children as separate victims when they are injured or killed during the commission of an offence against their mother, allowing two charges to be laid against the offender instead of just one.
    Mr. Speaker, I have three petitions calling upon the House of Commons to pass legislation which would recognize pre-born children as separate victims when they are injured or killed during the commission of an offence against their mothers, allowing two charges to be laid against the offenders instead of just one.

Human Rights  

    Mr. Speaker, I rise to present two petitions.
    The first petition is from many Canadians who are concerned about the process of persecution within the People's Republic of China of practitioners of Falun Dafa and Falun Gong.
     The petitioners urge the government to make it clear to the People's Republic of China that it must respect the human rights of non-violent practitioners.


    Mr. Speaker, the second petition is from many constituents in my riding of Saanich—Gulf Islands calling for the fulfilment of promises to provide stable, long-term and predictable funding for our national public broadcaster, CBC/Radio-Canada.


    Mr. Speaker, I have the privilege of presenting three petitions signed by a large number of residents from southwestern Ontario.
    The petitioners call upon the House of Commons to pass legislation which would recognize pre-born children as separate victims when they are injured or killed during the commission of an offence against their mothers, allowing two charges to be laid against the offender instead of just one.

Palliative Care  

    Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to present a petition. It is very appropriate given that we are voting on Bill C-14 today.
    The petitioners say that it is impossible for a person to give informed consent to assisted suicide or euthanasia if appropriate palliative care is unavailable to them.
     They therefore call on Parliament to establish a national strategy on palliative care.



    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present a petition in support of Cassie and Molly's law, a private member's bill put forward by the member for Yorkton—Melville, which deals with the issue of protecting the lives of pre-born children in cases where the mother wishes to carry the pregnancy to term.

Physician-Assisted Death  

    Mr. Speaker, I have a petition signed by parishioners of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese in Winnipeg.
    The petitioners ask Parliament to ensure there are safeguards to the right of all persons potentially involved in the provision of physician-assisted suicide or euthanasia to conscientiously object to provide any service that would assist physician-assisted suicide or euthanasia.

Questions on the Order Paper

     Mr. Speaker, the following question will be answered today: No. 96.


Question No. 96--
Mr. David Sweet:
    With regard to the changes to the uniforms of Generals in the Canadian Armed Forces involving the removal of pips and the inclusion of metal maple leaves and gold braids: (a) what was the justification for making these changes; (b) what are the details of any documented evidence exists to support this justification; (c) what evidence exists to suggest that either Canadian Armed Forces members or Allied officers were confused or misled by the current ranking insignia; (d) what process was used to determine what insignia should be included on the new uniforms, in particular, (i) who was consulted, (ii) how were they consulted, (iii) what options were considered to be included in these changes; (e) how many uniforms will need to be changed in total; (f) what is the total cost incurred by the government to implement these changes; and (g) how will the government measure the effectiveness of these changes?
Hon. Harjit S. Sajjan (Minister of National Defence, Lib.):
     Mr. Speaker, in response to part (a) of the question, the addition of the maple leaves and gold bar as sleeve rank will bring the Canadian Army general officers into harmony with the rank insignia of the flag officers of the Royal Canadian Navy and general officers of the Royal Canadian Air Force with whom they share senior military leadership responsibilities.
     The change to one convention of rank insignia amongst general officers and flag officers will lessen the chance of confusion for Canadians and our international allies.
    In response to part (b), the commander of the Canadian Army made a presentation to the chief of the defence staff regarding the merit of the proposed changes.
    Regarding part (c), the Canadian Army has not formally documented instances of confusion by Canadian Armed Forces soldiers or allied officers regarding the current rank insignia in a manner that would allow it to be presented as evidence. That said, there have been instances where the rank of Canadian Army generals was not immediately identifiable by military personnel.
    In terms of part (d)(i), the Minister of National Defence, the chief of the defence staff, the Canadian Army staff, and personnel in the directorate of history and heritage were consulted on the proposed change.
    In response to part (d)(ii), consultations were held through a presentation and discussion of options.
    In terms of part (d)(iii), the three options included: status quo, or no change; use of the pip instead of the maple leaf in the 1968-2013 system; and use of three alternative maple leaf metal designs.
    Regarding part (e), there are 56 general officers in the Canadian Army who wear the Canadian Army general officer uniform in the Canadian Armed Forces.
    Regarding part (f), the cost of issuing each of the 56 general officers in the Canadian Army with the new metal ranks for one existing service dress uniform is estimated at approximately $6,000. It is important to note that the move to a metal pin-on rank insignia on the shoulders of general officers eliminates the expense of embroidering the ranks on replacement shoulder straps, creating cost savings.
     Finally, in response to part (g), the Canadian Army has not established measures of effectiveness for this initiative.


Questions Passed as Orders for Returns

    Mr. Speaker, if Questions Nos. 86, 89 to 91, 93, 97 to 101 and 103 could be made an order for return, these returns would be tabled immediately.
    Is that agreed?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.


Question No. 86--
Mr. Pierre-Luc Dusseault:
     With regard to the Prime Minister of Canada’s state visit to the United States of America from March 9 to 11, 2016: (a) who was part of the Canadian delegation; and (b) what were the costs of the Canadian delegation, broken down by guest and for (i) transportation, (ii) accommodations, (iii) meals?
    (Return tabled)
Question No. 89--
Hon. Diane Finley:
    With regard to employment in the public service as of October 19, 2015: (a) what was the total number of full-time employees; (b) what was the total number of part-time employees; (c) what was the total number of casual employees; (d) what was the total number of contract employees; (e) how many employees were on leave; (f) how many employees worked in the National Capital Region; and (g) how many employees worked outside the National Capital Region?
    (Return tabled)
Question No. 90--
Mr. Arnold Viersen:
     With regard to federal spending within the electoral district of Peace River—Westlock, for each fiscal year since 2010-2011 inclusively: (a) what are the details of all grants, contributions, and loans to any organization, body, or group, broken down by (i) name of the recipient, (ii) municipality of the recipient, (iii) date on which the funding was received, (iv) amount received, (v) department or agency providing the funding, (vi) program under which the grant, contribution, or loan was made, (vii) nature or purpose; and (b) for each grant, contribution and loan identified in (a), was a press release issued to announce it and, if so, what is the (i) date, (ii) headline, (iii) file number of the press release?
    (Return tabled)
Question No. 91--
Mrs. Cheryl Gallant:
     With regard to the area defined by FEDNOR as Northern Ontario, since November 4, 2015, what is the list of grants, loans, contributions, and contracts awarded by the government broken down by (i) recipient, (ii) constituency, (iii) amount?
    (Return tabled)
Question No. 93--
Mr. James Bezan:
     With regard to the process of administering pension payments to retired members of the Canadian Armed Forces: (a) how many staff, military and civilian, administered Regular Force pensions since 2012, broken down by fiscal year; (b) what are the longest, shortest and average lengths of time that a Reserve Force member in the part-time pension plan had to wait before receiving a pension cheque since 2012, broken down by fiscal year; (c) what are the longest, shortest and average lengths of time that a Reserve Force member in the full-time pension plan had to wait before receiving a pension cheque since 2012, broken down by fiscal year; (d) what is the average wait time for a General/Flag Officer for a pension since 2012, broken down by fiscal year; (e) what is the average wait time for an officer for a pension cheque since 2012, broken down by fiscal year; (f) what is the average wait time for a non-commissioned member for a pension cheque since 2012, broken down by fiscal year; (g) in comparison with the public service pension plan and the RCMP pension plan, what are the average wait times for a pension cheque; (h) are pensions that take longer than 30 days to implement, and that are paid in arrears to service members, paid with the prevailing interest rate as compensation for the unnecessary delay and, if not, why; (i) what is the government's policy regarding paying interest on pensions in arrears; and (j) what is the Canadian Armed Force's policy regarding paying interest on pensions in arrears?
    (Return tabled)
Question No. 97--
Mr. Tom Kmiec:
     With regard to the Calgary Green Line Light Rail Transit (Green Line LRT): (a) what are the details, including but not limited to the sender, recipient, and dates that correspondence was sent or received, of all correspondence and briefing materials between all government departments, crown corporations and agencies, that were sent or received since December 31, 2009; and (b) what are the details of any briefings to ministers or staff which contain mention of the Green Line LRT and were sent or received since December 31, 2009?
    (Return tabled)
Question No. 98--
Mr. Tom Kmiec:
     With regard to the federal electoral riding of Calgary Shepard: what is the total amount of government dollars received by businesses, corporations, and entities within the Calgary Shepard riding since October 19, 2015, specifying (i) each department or ministry the funding was received through, (ii) the name of the initiative or program providing the funding, (iii) the date of each transfer, (iv) the amount of each individual transfer?
    (Return tabled)
Question No. 99--
Mr. Tom Kmiec:
     With regard to the Kurdistan Regional Government, the Department of Global Affairs and the Department of International Development: (a) what are the details of all correspondence and briefing notes from the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Minister of International Development and all documents presented to the said Ministries from all departments, corporations, and crown agencies regarding the Kurdistan Regional Government, since October 19, 2015, to the present; and (b) what are the details of any briefing notes which have been presented to the Ministers or their staff from government departments, ministries, corporations, or crown agencies, since October 19, 2015, to the present?
    (Return tabled)
Question No. 100--
Mr. Scott Reid:
     With regard to the Independent Advisory Board for Senate Appointments for the period between January 19, 2016, and March 19, 2016: (a) what were the expenses incurred by the board, in total, and broken down by type, including, (i) date of the expense, (ii) board members who incurred the expense, (iii) purpose for the expense; (b) for each in-person, telephone, or video conference meeting of the board, (i) what was the date of the meeting, (ii) what type of meeting was it, (iii) who were its attendees, (iv) what was its duration, (v) what was its location; (c) for each occasion, on what date, by whose initiative, for what purpose, and by what means did the board, or any member of the board, communicate with or receive communication from (i) the Prime Minister, (ii) a member of the Prime Minister’s Office, (iii) each of the 25 individuals provided to the Prime Minister, (iv) the Clerk of the Senate or a member of Senate administration, (v) the Minister of Democratic Institutions or a member of the minister’s office, (vi) the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, or a member of the Leader’s office, (vii) any other Member of Parliament or Senator, identifying the Member of Parliament or Senator; (d) in each province, which organizations submitted nominations; (e) were there any organizations that submitted more than one name and, if so, (i) which organizations, (ii) how many names, (iii) in which provinces; (f) was there any communication between the board, or any member of the board, and any successful or unsuccessful applicant; (g) if the answer to (f) is in the affirmative, in the case of those applicants who were subsequently appointed to the Senate, which ones were contacted; and (h) did the board, or any member of the board, approach any potential candidates to encourage him or her to submit an application?
    (Return tabled)
Question No. 101--
Mr. Andrew Scheer:
     With regard to the transition of government on November 4, 2015: (a) what is the total cost of any spending on renovating, redesigning, and re-furnishing for each ministerial office following the transition to the new government, broken down by (i) total cost, (ii) moving services, (iii) renovating services, (iv) painting, (v) flooring, (vi) furniture, (vii) appliances, (viii) art installation, (ix) all other expenditures; and (b) what is the total cost of any spending on renovating, redesigning, and re-furnishing for each Deputy Minister’s office in response to the new Cabinet, broken down by (i) total cost, (ii) moving services, (iii) renovating services, (iv) painting, (v) flooring, (vi) furniture, (vii) appliances, (viii) art installation, (ix) all other expenditures?
    (Return tabled)
Question No. 103--
Mr. Pierre-Luc Dusseault:
     With regard to federal spending in the riding of Sherbrooke, and for each fiscal year since 2010-2011 inclusively: (a) what are the details of all grants, contributions, and loans to any organization, body, or group, broken down by (i) name of the recipient, (ii) municipality of the recipient, (iii) date on which the funding was received, (iv) amount received, (v) department or agency providing the funding, (vi) program under which the grant, contribution, or loan was made, (vii) nature or purpose?
    (Return tabled)


    Mr. Speaker, I ask that the remaining questions be allowed to stand.
    Is that agreed?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.


[Government Orders]


Public Service Labour Relations Act

    Mr. Speaker, it is indeed an honour to stand before this House and once again speak to Bill C-7, as it deals with our brave men and women of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
    As I stand today, I was looking over my previous speech. I think it is incumbent that we do that once again. We should always remember the sacrifices, not only of our veterans but of those who put their uniforms on and run toward danger every day when others would run away.
    RCMP members are moms, dads, sisters, and brothers. They are volunteers within our communities. They coach minor sports. They work with charities. They contribute to the health and wellness of our communities, not just when they have their uniforms on but every day.
    We spoke previously of the legend of the Mountie from 1873, the North West Mounted Police, the 150 first recruits, who had the core values of integrity, honesty, professionalism, respect, and accountability. We talked about the legend of the Mountie always getting his man, Dudley Do-Right and Captain Canuck. We also talked about our national symbols of the red serge and the campaign hat, travelling internationally with Mounties in the promotion of Canada, and how proud we are of our RCMP force. These brave men and women are indeed our silent sentinels, so that we can rest comfortably every night. They face human tragedy and danger every day.
    Today, we are talking about Bill C-7 and how it impacts the 28,461 members.
    As we talk about the history of our RCMP, we should talk about what our RCMP members face today. Today, the RCMP is among the lowest-paid police force in Canada. It has slipped from the number one ranked police force in the world to well below that.
    Mr. Speaker, I should also mention that because I was very excited and very passionate about getting into this speech, I forgot to mention that I will be splitting my time with the member for Barrie—Innisfil. I apologize for not mentioning that sooner.
    The RCMP are paid 30% lower than their municipal colleagues. Morale is indeed at a low point. We are seeing the numbers every day. Regular force members are faced with increasing workloads and capacity. Time and again, our RCMP members' rights and freedoms are secondary to that, and to those who are committing the crimes.
    Since 1974, RCMP members have worked under a non-unionized labour relations regime. They had a secondary group staff relations representative program, SRRP. This was the group that represented the members' rights to management. That was the only group that was able to collectively represent the interests of the employees and our regular force members to management. Despite the consultative role of the SRRP, management has always had the final say in all human resource matters.
     In 2015, the Supreme Court ruled, in Mounted Police Association of Ontario v. Canada, that the existing labour relations program, the one currently in place, violated the rights and freedoms of RCMP members.
    Under subsection 2(d), “freedom of association”, of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Supreme Court found that indeed the rights and freedoms of RCMP members had been violated. Bill C-7 was introduced by this Liberal government in response to this decision last January. It was ruled that the Mounties should have the right to unionize and engage in collective bargaining. It should be noted that the RCMP are the only police force in Canada without that right.


    The Liberals took this legislation a little too far. Bill C-7 contains a list of issues that are excluded from the bargaining table, as well as a controversial proposal to ship Mounties hurt on the job to the provinces they are working in. Among the items that were left out of collective bargaining were staffing levels, workplace harassment, sexual harassment, conduct, discipline, uniforms, and scheduling. These are clauses and issues that not just RCMP workers, but any workers should have. They should have the right for a safe environment, a safe workplace. They should have the right to a say in those areas.
    The Conservatives and the opposition were able to strike down, through the Liberal majority on the committee, clauses 40 and 42. These are clauses that would have effectively moved RCMP members' health benefits to provincial entities. Indeed, workers' compensation claims would have been dealt with provincially. This would mean that Mounties would have a different standard of benefits, whether health or workers' compensation benefits, depending on the province they work in. Conservatives, through the committee, were able to strike that down. While this is a positive development, sadly, it took the spouses of existing and retired RCMP members to convince the Liberal government to finally see reason.
    It was my sincere hope that through debate, the Liberals would listen to the other concerns, not just from the Conservative side but the NDP, and indeed other members in government, who also shared some of their concerns before the bill went to committee. We had hope on this side that by allowing that bill go to committee, there would be further amendments. Sadly, that was not the case.
    Bill C-7 fails to support the brave men and women of the RCMP. It will take away their democratic right to a secret ballot and to negotiate other core issues that impact their work environment, their personal lives, and the lives of their families.
    Let us talk about the democratic right to a secret ballot. The Conservatives will always stand behind the RCMP. We will always support legislation that allows for the democratic right for a secret ballot vote. However, we will not support legislation that so blatantly violates the wishes of its members.
    I have been stopped a number of times on the street and in shopping centres. I have received emails and letters from RCMP members, wishing to be anonymous because they have been told not to speak about this issue. They have voiced their concerns about Bill C-7. Instead of forcing RCMP members to disclose their votes publicly, the Liberals should listen to the everyday rank and file, the RCMP members who are concerned that their vote will impact their workplace situations.
    I think I speak for all members in the House when I say that we proudly support and defend the men and women who wear the RCMP uniform. We thank them for their service every day. However, we, as the official opposition, respect the Supreme Court's decision that RCMP officers are entitled to bargain collectively. Some Conservatives even voted in favour of Bill C-7 to get it to the committee, but we were only able to strike down clauses 40 and 42. The Liberal government, in its open and transparent ways, was unwilling to require secret ballot certification, an essential requirement in the democratic process.


    We cannot support any legislation that would deny employees that fundamental right to vote in a secret ballot on whether to unionize. We do not use a show of hands or public petition in our democratic elections, nor should we in our workplace.
    In closing—
    I am sorry, but the time is up. You will be able to add more during questions and answers.
    The hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons.
    Madam Speaker, I find it unfortunate that the Conservatives have decided to vote against Bill C-7, given the importance of allowing our RCMP members to organize a union for collective bargaining purposes. I am a bit surprised. On the one hand, the member says that the Conservatives stand behind the members of the RCMP, but on the other hand, the Conservative Party would not support the unionization of RCMP members, which is something other law enforcement officers are already able to do.
    Why does the member believe that not supporting the unionization of the RCMP is a good thing for its members?
    Madam Speaker, it is not that we do not support the unionization of RCMP members. The fact is, Bill C-7 is such a stripped down piece of legislation that it would not allow our RCMP members, our everyday rank and file, to negotiate simple things, such as staffing, scheduling, or workplace harassment.
    One other item is that we trust the 28,461 members to make life-and-death decisions every day. However, the Liberals will not trust that these members are able to vote or have a say on whether they want to unionize. It is not that we are against it, but we are against the non-secret ballot. Allow these members to have a say on whether they want to unionize.
    Madam Speaker, this is another example of what the Liberals have been doing lately. They are implying that if the bills they are putting forward, narrow and restrictive as they are, do not pass, there would somehow be a legal vacuum and RCMP members would lose their right to organize. That is not true. The Supreme Court decision will come into force and will allow the RCMP to unionize.
    By the same token, my question is about the mistake I think the Conservatives are making by conflating the secret ballot with the way one organizes a union. Once the union is organized, it would be quite public as to who is a member of the union and who is not.
     No one would be forced to join a union. If people do not wish to be associated with a union, they would not be a member of the union. There is no requirement of membership in any of our trade union facilities. There is a requirement to pay dues, because one receives the benefits of membership, but no one is required to join the union.
    Therefore, I am not quite sure how the secret ballot for election applies to the idea of membership in a union.


    Madam Speaker, we are here today talking about Bill C-7, which is a fundamental piece of legislation that will hopefully see our RCMP ranks on equal footing with other unionized employees. I think we can all agree that we want to make sure that our everyday rank and file have all rights afforded to them.
    Our argument and position on this side is that the decision of a few, of a single small group, would impact 28,461 members of the RCMP. That is wrong. Why not give the 28,461 members of the RCMP, the brave men and women who put the uniform on every day, face human tragedy and run toward danger, a say on whether they unionize or not?
    Madam Speaker, I have a very simple question for the member.
    Here we have legislation that would allow RCMP members to unionize. Why, in principle, would the member not support the legislation that would enable that to happen?
    Madam Speaker, again, I am going back to the decision of a few impacting the 28,461.
     I have had a number of both existing RCMP members, everyday rank and file, as well as retired members, who are saying that fundamentally the bill is flawed. We are asking the Liberals to come back with a better bill. Prepare and provide the RCMP members with a voice.
    Madam Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for Cariboo—Prince George for sharing his time with me today.
    I rise to speak to Bill C-7, but I would first like to thank all members of the RCMP for the incredible service they provide to our country not just from coast to coast to coast but across the globe. RCMP members are stationed all over the world, and they provide incredible service to our country and its residents. I am 100% supportive of the RCMP for what it does. I have tried to encourage my son to become an RCMP officer because of the pride and tradition the RCMP brings to our great country.
     I would like to start with just how we arrived at this point, and my hon. colleague brought this up earlier. Since 1974, RCMP members have worked under a non-unionized labour relations regime in which the staff relations representative program, the SRRP, has been the only body recognized by management that represents the interests of employees. Despite the consultative role of the SRRP, management has the final word with respect to HR matters.
    Section 2(1)(d) of the Public Service Labour Relations Act excluded RCMP members from unionizing. The Supreme Court of Canada ruled in the Mounted Police Association of Ontario v. Canada that the existing labour relations program violated the rights of RCMP members under section 2(d), freedom of association, of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. In the ruling in January 2015, the government was given one year to pass new legislation. In January 2016 that deadline was extended to April 2016.
    Bill C-7 would allow members of the RCMP and its reservists to collectively bargain. According to the bill's summary, it would create a process for an employee organization to acquire collective bargaining rights for members and reservists and include provisions that regulate collective bargaining, arbitration, unfair labour practices, and grievances.
    The certification of unions speaks to the three requirements it must meet. It must have a primary mandate, the representation of employees who are RCMP members. It cannot be affiliated with a bargaining agent or other association that does not have a primary mandate of the representation of police officers, and it cannot be certified for any other group of employees.
    Bill C-4, and this is what I find to be somewhat disturbing, would strip employees of their right to a secret ballot, and I will speak more on that later on. On the certification and decertification of unions, the combination of Bill C-4 and Bill C-7 would leave RCMP members without a secret ballot vote on future union drives, and it runs contrary to my view, that of giving workers the right to a vote that is free of intimidation prior to being forced to join, pay dues, or be represented by a bargaining agent.
    With respect to collective bargaining, the bill would restrict what is up for bargaining. The collective agreement cannot include any term or condition that relates to law enforcement techniques, transfers, appointments, probation, discharges, demotions, conduct including harassment, basic requirements of RCMP duties, uniform order, or dress.
    Given the unique nature of the RCMP, there are several aspects of that part of the bill that I certainly agree with, such as postings, uniforms, demotions, conduct, etc., and the increase in the size of the Public Service Labour Relations and Employment Board to 12 from 10 and the requirement that at least two of those members have knowledge of police organization. It also speaks to dispute resolutions and grievances.
    As I said earlier, one of the things that is somewhat disturbing to me is the fact that there would be no requirement for secret ballots.


    The legislation was really watered down when it came to Parliament. I supported it at second reading because I thought there was more work that could be done at committee, and I was very glad to see that there was. With respect to clauses 40 and 42 of the legislation, it was actually amended, in large part because of a push on the part of our Conservative members of the committee.
    With respect to the legislation itself, obviously this side of the House respects the Supreme Court of Canada decision. One of the things we do not respect, and I do not personally respect, concerns the right of an individual to have a secret ballot. I was president of a firefighters' union for 30 and a half years. I can say that everything was done with a secret ballot. I believe fundamentally and principally in the right of an individual to maintain a secret ballot, especially in an organization like this, because one of the unique natures of being a police officer or a firefighter, particularly a young firefighter or police officer, is the fact that one is on a career path and often some of the decisions made can have an impact later, on every aspect of one's career.
    As the member for Durham said, it is one of the fundamental tenets of democracy. All of us in this House have been elected as a result of a secret ballot. The Speaker of the House was elected on a secret ballot. Leaders of political organizations are elected on a secret ballot. The irony of this whole thing is that, as I stated in my comments, not only are RCMP officers charged with protecting us domestically and protecting Canadian interests around the world, but they often go into new democratic countries and are there to ensure that the democratic process is adhered to. I think that is sometimes forgotten around here. Many times, RCMP officers will go to new democracies in Africa and in Europe and will actually be there to ensure that individuals' right to a secret ballot, free of intimidation, free of coercion, free of influence is ensured in those democracies. The irony I find in this whole process is the fact that RCMP officers are not being given the very right that they go and protect in faraway lands. That to me is a complete irony.
    Why is it that the Liberal government would ensure we are seeing not just a continuation of Bill C-4 in Bill C-7 with respect to the secret ballot? That is up to speculation, but if one were to be a good speculator, it could be nothing more than just political payback to the promises that were made to the union leadership with respect to the last election, which was that there were going to be secret ballots.
    Having been a union president myself, I have first-hand experience and I can say that there is some element of intimidation, especially, as I said earlier, with young police officers or young firefighters. They sometimes do not know what they do not know. When they get into a situation where they are voting or are in a process of unionization, it can be intimidating for young firefighters. In my involvement in the firefighter movement, at one point I was intimidated by the process of which I was not really aware. The fundamental right of the secret ballot is something that is Canadian. It is not just something that belongs in this legislation for RCMP officers, but it is something that is fundamentally rooted in Canada.
    There are several aspects of this legislation that we are supporting but one that we cannot support, based on a fundamental principle of having a secret ballot. The fact that it is not in this legislation is something that I cannot support. I support 100% our RCMP officers, the men and women who protect our country and Canadian interests abroad, but this legislation in some ways is flawed, and I cannot support it.


    Madam Speaker, I want to thank my colleague opposite for his remarks, and I do appreciate his party's support for the components of the bill that he said he is supporting. I also want to thank him for his dedicated public service over the last three decades. We do appreciate that, as Canadians.
    I want to be clear if he and his party understand what they are opposing. There seems to be some confusion about what impact and what effect the secret ballot component of the legislation would have. I want to make sure he is abundantly clear on what he opposes.
     My understanding is that the secret ballot is not like one that would be used in an election, but these are members of unions who may or may not opt to be in the union. I wonder if he could clarify what he actually opposes. If they understood it better, maybe they would support the bill in its entirety.
    Madam Speaker, I completely understand with respect to union certification. There are other aspects with respect to secret ballots that do happen within unions, but one of the fundamental things that is important for members opposite to understand is that, by virtue of paying their union dues, they are members of a union and have a right and duty to fair representation. As the president of a union, I can speak to that. The fact is that no one should be intimidated, coerced, or influenced in any way as to whether or not they will decide to join a union. Every other aspect that follows is different from this.



    Madam Speaker, it is odd, I hear my Conservative colleagues making speeches and I get the impression that they are not talking about Bill  C-7 so much as the former Bill C-525, which forced a secret ballot for union certification processes.
    The NDP believes that the ability to form a union is a fundamental right and that RCMP officers deserve to have the same rights as the members of the other unionized police forces in Canada.
    I would like my Conservative colleague to say a few words about that. Why does he think that RCMP officers should not have the same rights as members of other police forces in Canada?


    Madam Speaker, I do not think anyone on this side of the aisle is actually arguing about the RCMP's fundamental right to unionize. We are clearly arguing for the right for each individual member of the RCMP, as we would fight—as I would fight, as I did fight in Bill C-25—for the individual right of a member to have a secret ballot for union certification.
     I would suggest to the hon. member, as I suggested earlier to the House, that it is a fundamental tenet of democracy to have secret ballots. When we go to the polls, we do not raise our hands when we vote. We walk behind a screen and cast our ballot in secret. Given the fact that it is that fundamental tenet of democracy, I would say that on the basis of union certification the same should hold true.
    Madam Speaker, before I begin, I should say that I will be sharing my time with my hon. colleague from Oakville North—Burlington.
    I am very pleased to rise today and speak in support of Bill C-7, which is an important piece of government legislation intended to recognize and give life to the constitutionally guaranteed freedom of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police members and reservists to engage in meaningful collective bargaining.
    I want to take a moment to reiterate some of the comments made by hon. colleagues with respect to the RCMP. It is a world-class police service. In some respects it is very unique. It is the only police service in the country that provides protection and law enforcement at the municipal level, at the provincial level, and at the federal level, as well as internationally. It provides important services and protection for our communities and our country with respect to national security and terrorism. It provides protection with respect to monetary enforcement and fraud. It provides day-to-day protection for many of the local communities, including first nations and indigenous communities, right across the country.
    As a former federal prosecutor and having played an important role in law enforcement, I know that I speak on behalf of my constituents, and hopefully on behalf of all members in the House, when I thank them for the service and sacrifice they are prepared to make every day.
    Bill C-7 represents a watershed moment in the history of the RCMP. As I mentioned before, I was the president of an association representing the working interests of federal prosecutors and Department of Justice lawyers. I know first-hand how important the collective bargaining process is to provide employees with meaningful input in pursuit of their collective goals.
    The purpose of Bill C-7 is to accomplish exactly that fundamental objective. From the point of first principles, it will do so in the following two ways. First and most fundamentally, it will provide RCMP members and reservists with the freedom to choose whether they wish to be represented by a bargaining agent. Of course, historically, all RCMP members were statute-barred from engaging in collective bargaining. However, the bill would remove that statutory prohibition, thereby giving members the opportunity to organize and associate under the auspices of a bargaining agent.
    Second, assuming RCMP members and reservists choose to avail themselves of the opportunity to organize, Bill C-7 will also afford them with the ability to choose which bargaining agent will represent them. Once certified by the federal Public Service Labour Relations and Employment Board, this bargaining agent will have the capacity to collectively pursue workplace objectives.
    As RCMP members and reservists embark on these two key decisions, I want to underline that Bill C-7 will ensure that they are able to make their choice freely and voluntarily, and in a manner that is independent of management.
     Consistent with these two principles, our proposed legislation will also provide for a single, national RCMP bargaining unit composed solely of RCMP members appointed to a rank, and reservists; require that the RCMP bargaining agent have as its primary mandate the representation of RCMP members; and statutorily exclude certain officers, as well as other managerial and confidential positions, from representation, as is the case across the federal public service.
     As I alluded to, the Public Service Labour Relations and Employment Board would be designated as the administrative tribunal for matters related to RCMP member and reservist collective bargaining, as well as for grievances related to a collective agreement. In making recommendations for an appointment to that board, the chairperson of the board must take into account the need to have two members with knowledge of police organizations. Both the board and the Public Service Labour Relations Act would be renamed to reflect the addition of RCMP members and reservists to collective bargaining and to that inherent jurisdiction.
     Finally, the bill before us today would establish independent binding arbitration as the dispute resolution process for bargaining impasses, with no right to strike.
     These are some of the highlights of what Bill C-7 sets out to accomplish. By no means is my summary exhaustive, and indeed there are many other detailed amendments that will have to be enacted in order to create this new regime in which RCMP members and reservists will be permitted to collectively bargain.
     Let me say a few words about the broader historical context in which Bill C-7 has come to be presented in the House.


    The proposed act is, in effect, a legislative response to a decision by the Supreme Court of Canada issued more than a year ago in January 2015. In that year, at that time, the Supreme Court of Canada released a case called Mounted Police Association of Ontario v. Canada (Attorney General). The court made a number of key findings flowing from that decision.
    Among other things, the court struck down the exclusion of RCMP members from the definition of “employee” in the Public Service Labour Relations Act as unconstitutional.
    In addition, the court held that sections of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police regulations infringed on the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Those regulations established the staff relations representative program as the labour relations regime for RCMP members. The aim of the program was that, at each level of hierarchy, staff relations representatives and management consulted on human resources initiatives and policies, with the understanding that the final word always rested with management.
    The Supreme Court of Canada found that the staff relations representative program did not meet the criteria necessary for meaningful collective bargaining. RCMP members were represented by an organization they did not choose and did not control. They had to work within a structure that lacked independence from management. That process failed to achieve the balance between employees and the employer that is essential to a meaningful collective bargaining structure. Accordingly, the court held that this violated the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and in particular the right to freedom of association guaranteed under section 2(d).
    The court suspended its judgment for one year to give the government time to consider its options. The government sought an extension and was given an additional four months to introduce legislation in the House of Commons that would provide a new labour relations framework for RCMP members and reservists. The government took steps, including consultations with RCMP members in the summer of 2015, to bring this framework into compliance with the Supreme Court of Canada's ruling.
    I pause here to note that the consultation process was robust. Town hall meetings, teleconferences, and video conferences were conducted right across the country. A survey was also conducted, with thousands of members having participated and over 600 pages of comments received and reviewed. I believe that the input provided has been reflected in the drafting of the bill.
    Bill C-7 passed second reading, as members know, and was given due consideration by the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security. The government has the utmost respect for the parliamentary process and for the role of committees in our system of government.
    I am happy to say that changes, which were recommended in light of witness testimony and written submissions, were both discussed and approved by the committee. I would hasten to add that while the bill does include exclusions with respect to collective bargaining, those proposed exclusions are very much consistent with the rest of the public service where collective bargaining is permitted.
    I also wish to point out that, aside from collective bargaining, there are other avenues that RCMP members and the bargaining agent can access to pursue their workplace goals. For instance, the labour-management committee is a forum where employee representatives and management can discuss issues collaboratively around the process for conduct and harassment. Those issues can be discussed and strengthened in that forum. Safety concerns with uniforms that are worn by members of the RCMP can also be discussed in the occupational health and safety committee. There they can study the issue and make evidence-based recommendations.
     I also feel it imperative to emphasize that Bill C-7 permits collective bargaining on issues that are related to more than just pay and benefits. Leave and conditions of work, for example, can be collectively bargained, as well as matters that pertain to the National Joint Council directives on workforce adjustments.
    As members can see, the purpose of Bill C-7 is to usher in a new labour relations regime for the RCMP. However, I would be remiss if I did not point out that the suspension of the Supreme Court of Canada's decision has now expired. As a result, this issue is of even more urgent importance.
    Delaying the passage of this new legislation raises numerous problems. For one, there is currently an overlap between the RCMP Act and the Public Service Labour Relations Act in grievance processes, which could result in confusion and conflicting interpretations. In addition, RCMP members could be represented by multiple bargaining agents, making it difficult for the RCMP to maintain a coherent, national approach to labour relations.
     Passing the legislation would avoid confusion and uncertainty among RCMP members. We owe this to the men and women of the RCMP, as has been expressed before the House, who protect Canadians on so many fronts.


    The bill before us today gives the RCMP members and reservists the respect they are due and I know that all hon. members are committed to supporting the dedicated and proud members of Canada's national police service. That is why I encourage all members to vote in favour of the bill.


    Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech.
    Could my colleague elaborate on something that was raised by those who analyzed the bill? This was alluded to earlier in this debate on Bill C-7. As a result of the exclusions in the bill, some things cannot be brought to the bargaining table with the employer.
    Can my colleague tell the members of the House why RCMP employees would not have the right to negotiate certain things, as they will be excluded from the negotiations, while other police forces across Canada have the right to negotiate similar items during negotiations with their employers?


    Madam Speaker, I do agree that there are a number of things that the bill would propose to exclude from the realm of collective bargaining. As I said during the course of my remarks in favour of it, the exclusions that are proposed are very much consistent with those that apply to all of the other collective bargaining agents across the federal public service.
    With respect to the RCMP, I also want to take a moment to emphasize that there are many central issues that relate to workplace collective goals that they will be permitted to bargain over. That includes things like pay, benefits, and leave. These are matters that are of vital interest to the RCMP membership. They have expressed a very strong desire to be able to negotiate on these issues and Bill C-7 will allow them to do just that.
    Madam Speaker, the hon. member talked about the independence of the members in this process, yet without the ability to have a secret vote, how does he guarantee their independence when he talks about the hundreds of thousands of detachments across this country where the rank and file work together on a daily basis? How do members vote when their sergeant is voting one way and they are going the other way and working relationships are not going to be great after that?


    Madam Speaker, the short answer is that we on the government side do not start with the assumption that there will be any duress or coercion. Rather we start with the assumption that employees and the RCMP membership will work collaboratively with their supervisors and upper management to achieve collective workplace goals.
    The notion that a secret ballot is the only way in which free, fair, and full collective bargaining can take place is refuted by the example that is applied right across the federal public service. There are many other bargaining agents, both in the public service as well as beyond in the private sphere, where members stand and are counted in an open and transparent way. That is also consistent with what Bill C-7 proposes to enshrine.
    Madam Speaker, I would ask the member to reflect why we have the legislation before us today and to recognize how important it is that the legislation passes in a timely fashion. It is because of the Supreme Court, but it is also the right thing to do given the importance of the contributions our RCMP has made and the fact that other law enforcement agencies already have unions.
    Madam Speaker, as I said in my remarks, I can speak with some first-hand knowledge about the importance of those members of the federal public service who have fought long and hard to achieve important workplace goals. These are not just goals that are an end unto themselves; they are goals that assist in the protection of our communities and the law enforcement of the land. These are completely legitimate goals and those that are consistent with their fundamental rights under the charter. Bill C-7 is all about ensuring that the RCMP members and reservists are able to avail themselves of their section 2(d) rights under the charter.
    Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise today in support of Bill C-7. The bill before us today would uphold the constitutionally guaranteed freedom of RCMP members and reservists to engage in meaningful collective bargaining.
    Collective bargaining is a right that other police officers in Canada have enjoyed for many years, but it is a right that has not been given to the members and reservists of the RCMP, individuals who over the past 143 years have contributed so much to our proud, strong, and free nation.
    As the Minister of Public Safety said when he appeared before the public safety committee, RCMP members are dedicated to their work and to serving Canadians and they must perform their jobs while often facing immense challenges and very real dangers. He stressed that it is important that our government support the work of our RCMP members and take all proper steps to ensure they can exercise their charter protected freedoms, including freedom of association. In fact, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police regulations imposed on members a specific form of employee representation called the staff relations representative program. This program was found to be unconstitutional as it was not independent of management and RCMP members could not choose the employee association that represented them. Moreover, staff relations representatives were limited to giving advice. Management still had the final decision.
    Bill C-7 is a clear and reasoned response to the Supreme Court of Canada's decision in the case of Mounted Police Association of Ontario v. Attorney General of Canada. The Supreme Court found key parts of the current RCMP labour relations regime unconstitutional. In particular, the court struck down the exclusion of RCMP members from the definition of “employee” in the Public Services Labour Relations Act. The court also held that a section of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police regulations infringed on the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. However, 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 staff relations representative program did not meet the criteria necessary for meaningful collective bargaining. Therefore, the court held that this violated the charter right to freedom of association.
    Bill C-7 would provide RCMP members and reservists their independence and freedom of choice in labour relations matters while recognizing the unique operational reality of policing.
    The bill in question is a product of careful consideration of the results of consultations with key stakeholders. The first was with regular members of the RCMP through online and in-person consultations. The second was with the provinces, territories, and municipalities that have policing agreements with the RCMP.
    Bill C-7 has a number of important features. First, it provides for independent binding arbitration as the dispute resolution process for bargaining impasses. Consistent with other police forces across the country, the members of the RCMP bargaining unit would not be permitted to strike. This was the strong preference of those members who participated in the 2015 consultation. The bill would provide for a single, national bargaining unit composed solely of RCMP members appointed to a rank and reservists. Also, the RCMP bargaining agent, should one be certified, would have as its primary mandate the representation of RCMP members. Again, regular members showed clear support for these provisions. The bill also excludes officers appointed to the ranks of inspector and above from representation in the union. Finally, the Public Service Labour Relations and Employment Board would be designated as the administrative tribunal for matters related to RCMP member and reservist collective bargaining, as well as for grievances related to a collective agreement.
    The board, and the Public Service Labour Relations Act, would also be renamed to reflect the addition of RCMP member and reservist collective bargaining to its jurisdiction. In making recommendations for appointment to that board, the chairperson would take into account the need to have two members with knowledge of police organizations.
    Bill C-7 was introduced on March 9. After second reading, the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security carefully studied the legislation.


    The committee heard from numerous witnesses, both labour and management, and had a fulsome debate on the legislation. These witnesses spoke about the opportunity this legislation would provide to create improved working conditions and the importance that RCMP members placed on representation. As a result of their testimony, the committee amended the legislation to remove clauses 40 and 42, which dealt with health coverage for members.
    There were concerns expressed about these clauses by almost every witness who testified. I am proud to be part of the committee that listened and, as a result, improved the legislation before us today.
    I share the concerns expressed by some witnesses about harassment in the RCMP. The mandate letter of the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness states that he will take action to ensure that the RCMP and all other parts of his portfolio are workplaces free from harassment and sexual violence. Through conversations with the minister and his staff, I know that the minister has made it a priority to address harassment in the RCMP.
    One of his first acts last February was to ask the chairman of the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission to evaluate how the force has responded to his 2013 recommendations. Since concurrence at report stage, the extension given to the government by the Supreme Court of Canada to put in place a new labour relations regime for the RCMP has expired. Given this, the delay in passing Bill C-7 could have numerous adverse effects. As it now stands, there is currently an overlap between the RCMP Act and the Public Service Relations Act regarding grievance procedures, which could result in confusion and conflicting interpretations.
    The longer the delay, the greater the uncertainty among RCMP members regarding proposed labour relations and how it could apply to them. This is why we must show our support for the dedicated and proud members of Canada's national police service. It is incumbent upon us to give RCMP members and reservists the respect they are due by passing this legislation, so I invite all of my hon. colleagues to join me in supporting this bill.
    Madam Speaker, I congratulate the member on her speech. I understand she had a constituency office opening last week, so I will congratulate her on that as well. I hear from my in-laws that it was well attended.
    With respect to her speech, I want to ask about the issue of the secret ballot. It is one the official opposition has raised a number of times. Government members have told us that a secret ballot is still possible, but it is not guaranteed. It could happen, but it would not have to happen. Conservatives do not think it is good enough that members might have the opportunity to express themselves in the most democratic way, but there is no guarantee.
    I wonder if the member could tell us why she thinks that members of the RCMP should not have the assurance of knowing that they will actually be able to use the most democratic way possible, a secret ballot, when they consider certification.


    Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague across the floor for congratulating me on my office opening. I am also proud to represent his in-laws in the House of Commons.
    With regard to the secret ballot, there have been a great deal of questions about that. We feel it is very important that the RCMP has the same bargaining provisions as the remainder of the public service. In fact, we feel it is very important that they fall under the same legislation, which would be Bill C-4. It is a consistent approach for the federal public service and we feel the RCMP deserves to have the same certification and decertification processes that are available to other public servants included in Bill C-4. In addition, some of the provisions can be debated when we deal with Bill C-4, but we feel that they need to be part of the same certification process.
    Madam Speaker, I have a question about what the member just said. She said she thought the RCMP should fall under the same regulations as other public servants and yet that is not what Bill C-7 would do. It would take away fundamental issues from bargaining that in any other workplace would be bargainable, things like harassment in the workplace, staffing and deployment issues. Bill C-7 would actually take those away from RCMP members.
    Really, from my point of view, everyone would be better off if this bill did not pass because then the Supreme Court decision would place the RCMP under the same regulations as all other public servants.
    Madam Speaker, one of the things that has become very clear as we have talked about the RCMP is how unique it is.
    We certainly heard that during our committee hearings, and there is not a one size fits all for the RCMP. It is a unique police service that serves a unique function across the country. I do not think we can treat every aspect of the RCMP in the same way that we treat the public service.
    The members of the RCMP are deserving of this legislation. There is no doubt that they deserve to be able to form a union. We feel strongly that they should be subject to Bill C-7 and that this bill should pass quickly.
    Madam Speaker, I wonder if my colleague could comment on the principle of unionization. The Supreme Court of Canada has recognized that our RCMP members should have the ability to organize for collective bargaining, and we see that as a positive thing. Many police agencies across Canada already have that right, which we would give members of the RCMP in this legislation.
    In principle, what we are talking about today is allowing the members of the RCMP to unionize. Can the member reflect on that principle of what we are actually doing, and then provide comment as to why she believes it is important that they have that right?
    Madam Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for the question, and he probably put as well as I could the importance of members of the RCMP being allowed to form a union. Certainly where I come from, the members of the Halton Regional Police Service have had an association for many years. It is important for members in the RCMP to be able to have those bargaining rights that they would be afforded within a union.
    Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan.
    Before I begin, I would like to take this opportunity to thank all RCMP members, both past and present, for their service and putting public safety before their own safety every day.
    I had the opportunity to speak to the bill when it was at second reading. In my speech I stated that we supported Bill C-7 going to committee, where we would ask the government to amend its legislation to explicitly allow RCMP members the right to vote on whether to unionize through a secret ballot.
    I respect the Supreme Court decision that RCMP officers are entitled to bargain collectively. The purpose of Bill C-7 is to satisfy this ruling and ensure the RCMP has the framework in place to bargain collectively if its members so wish.
    If we look to the court's decision, we will see that employees' choice was the cornerstone. It is my opinion that a secret ballot is the most appropriate method of ensuring members have that choice free of intimidation and negative ramifications. A lot of young and new members may feel unsure about how they are supposed to vote when they are working in a ranked structure. Their management in the field detachments is older than they are and will have an understanding that is different from theirs.
    Many members across the force want to see change. Speaking from personal experience as a former RCMP member for 35 years, people tend, especially in police roles, to be very private about individual concerns due to the chain of command structure in the police environment.
    However, with a secret ballot, members would have the ability to vote honestly on whether they wished to unionize without fear of ramifications. That is why I believe it is very important that members feel secure in their decision that the choice should be something members are able to reflect on in private.
    I will not be splitting my time after all, Madam Speaker. The member for Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan has a lot to say. I will take the full 20 minutes and leave him 20 minutes on his own. I apologize.
    As promised during the second reading of the bill, our Conservative Party requested in committee that C-7 be amended to require secret ballot certification. I was very disappointed that the government was unwilling to make this essential change. While I support the intent of the legislation to allow the RCMP to collectively bargain, I cannot support the bill as it is currently written. In the certification process for a bargaining agent, a secret ballot should be in place to allow all members to freely express their own opinions.
    The Supreme Court judgment was silent on the method of choice in that it did not clarify whether the certification process should be by 50% plus one majority or by secret ballot, and that is too bad.
    It has been argued by other members that the principle of a card check should be upheld as a sufficient and appropriate method for the RCMP, because that is how workers in the private sector and other federally regulated groups will decide on collective bargaining once 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 passes its final reading.


    We do not use a show of hands or a public petition in our democratic elections, nor should we in the workplace, especially in this set of circumstances.
    The right to peaceful association is granted to workers through the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, but the unmitigated right union leaders feel they have to represent a particular workplace is not protected by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This leadership is something that must be earned from the membership. Union leaders need to remember that representation is contingent upon workers placing their trust in the particular union of their choice through a democratic selection process. If union membership can elect its national president or any of its executives, directors, or leadership by way of a secret ballot, then in all fairness the workers should be afforded the very same right to have a secret ballot during the union certification process.
    The right to be able to vote one's will free of intimidation or threat is a fundamental freedom and a right that should be extended to all workers. That is why when we were government we passed Bill C-525, the employees voting rights act, which required that certification of bargaining agents under the Public Service Labour Relations Act be achieved by a secret ballot vote based on the majority.
    As noted earlier, Bill C-4 would reverse the procedures for the certification of bargaining agents that existed before Bill C-525; that is back to card check.
     It has been argued that the RCMP, a public service, should not be treated any differently from other groups of workers. If it is good enough for every other federally regulated group to certify under a card check system, then it should be good enough for RCMP members.
    I would like to remind my colleagues that the requirement to unionize was a consequence of a Supreme Court of Canada ruling. It was not a consequence of the majority of RCMP members wanting this type of method to govern the way they protected themselves.
    Following the court ruling, the government launched a consultation process that took place over the summer of 2015. It consisted of a survey, town halls and video conferences. With over 9,000 members completing the survey, there was a clear expression that they would like a regime designed specifically for the RCMP. They did not want to be lumped in with other civil servants.
    The government needs to realize that the RCMP is a police force with a unique role and a unique chain of command structure. It is clearly different from other federally regulated groups and therefore should be, in my view, treated differently. The RCMP should have the ability to decide whether to unionize through the most appropriate method for it, not for another group. Members deserve a secret ballot.
     Recognition of this should have been taken by the government in order to realize the RCMP was not like other federal departments. However, the Liberals have refused to amend Bill C-7 to allow RCMP members the right to vote on whether to unionize through a secret ballot. Therefore, I cannot support the bill.
    I am extremely proud of the RCMP and its members, and to have served in that organization myself. Its members risk their lives every day and should hold great pride in serving Canada's police force. The least we can do is give them the right to vote, free of all intimidation, on whether to unionize.


    Earlier today there was talk about the staff relations program, which was brought in in the early 1970s. Unlike some of the comments that were made with respect to it, it was a program wherein the representatives were voted in by the members. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, it negotiated in good faith with the management of the RCMP and Treasury Board, and it provided strong representation to the members. We remained in the top three police forces per pay and benefits for many years under that program.
     Somewhere throughout the1990s and 2000s, when things got tight in all governments, the system declined and the pay and benefits of the members of the RCMP declined with the cuts made by the Liberal government and by the Conservative government afterward.
    The unionization of the RCMP is profoundly different than any other union that has ever been formed in our country. It is a legislated requirement. I do not believe any member in the House could stand before me and tell me of any other union in Canada that was formed by a legislated order and members told that they had to vote but not it could not be a secret vote. Right off the bat that is intimidation by the government down to the people in the field.
    Yes, there are groups in the RCMP across Canada that want to see a union. Other members do not want to see a union. However, the one thing they all will agree on is that they are at the bottom of the police totem pole when it comes to salaries and benefits.
    I mentioned earlier that in the 1970s, 1980s, and even into the early 1990s, we were always part of the top 10 police forces. In fact, we did not even recognize the police forces that ranked 11 down to 50-something. We only looked at the top 10. Staff relations negotiated to keep us in the top, and it kept us in the top three for many years.
     However, today the RCMP is ranked 56th. It is a sad situation for Canada's national police force to be number 56 on the totem pole of police forces. It should be in at least the top 10, and it should be in the top 3. It is Canada's police force. It is Canada's international police force. It is internationally recognized as one of the best police forces in the world. Yet we are only paying its members at the bottom of the scale.
    It was mentioned earlier that a survey was done in 2015 to determine how the members of the RCMP felt about unionizing, or to determine if there were concerns with respect to people representing them in some type of bargaining. Approximately 9,000 members said that they needed a better system. That is only roughly one-third of the membership.
    Clearly, from speaking to the members of the RCMP who are stationed in my community, many are uncomfortable about the fact that the RCMP may become unionized. They are proud to serve their country. A lot of them joined the RCMP for one specific reason: not to be in a unionized organization. They wanted the freedom to serve and not be controlled by an internal organization. Now they will have to vote in that regard.


    I just want to state an opinion here, which is this. If they voted against it, would we be back here in another year and a half when another group challenges it through the Supreme Court?
    I want to talk a bit about the discomfort of the members in the field. I am talking about western Canada specifically, eastern Canada, those members who are stationed in small detachments. I will give a brief example of what I mean by small detachments. It could be a detachment of two members, with a corporal in charge. It could be a detachment of six members, with a sergeant in charge. It could be a detachment of eight members, with a sergeant and then a corporal. That is how the rank structure works within the force. As the numbers go up, so does the number of NCOs in the detachment. A staff sergeant would command a detachment of 14 members with one sergeant. Once it gets up to 18 or 20 members, there are two sergeants and then there is a corporal.
    However, the problem is that the members all work together to protect their communities, to protect the safety of the people within that community, and to protect each other's safety. They go out there, as mentioned earlier by other members, and they are the first ones at the scene. They are the first ones to go to the shootings, the violent assaults, the fatal accidents. They have to work hand in hand with each other. How can the Liberals expect a young constable in, for example, a staff-sergeant detachment with a staff sergeant, two sergeants and two corporals, to vote, when he has to vote in front of them on the way he thinks it should be, knowing they or the other constables that he works with may feel totally different from how he does? However, he has to stand up there and wave his little card and vote. Do they think he is not going to be intimidated? Members will be completely uncomfortable about voting on whether they should become unionized if they have to vote in front of their peers.
    The thing that is very unique about the RCMP, and very similar to fire departments, is that the rank and file in the smaller detachments, going even to an inspector's detachment, which comes in at 50 people, or a superintendent's, which comes in at 100 members, work hand in hand. Those members deserve the right to decide whether they want to unionize, but they should also have the right to vote privately and secretly so that they do not put themselves in an awkward position with their peers, with their supervisors, and with their buddies with whom they work side by side, with whom one day, or even the next day, they may have to go back to back in a scuffle in a hotel. Sometimes it is hard. One member might be mad because a guy voted the other way and might not work as hard as she or he should.
    It is a dangerous precedent that we are setting here. The RCMP, fire departments, and even police departments are unique. They are a proud lot of people who go out there to fight for their communities, to keep their communities safe, and to keep each other safe. However, their pride is individual. They are proud of serving an organization, but they want to make their important decisions on their own, and we would take that fundamental right away from them. We should not. We must look at that aspect of it.
    I cannot support the bill, simply because we would not give the members of the RCMP the right to vote secretly on the decision of whether they want to unionize.


    Madam Speaker, I am delighted to address this issue because my son was standing in front of the Parliament Buildings for the last couple of months as a new member of the RCMP. I congratulate the hon. member for his service.
    I am wondering about the notion of RCMP members being intimidated because I know a little about the training program they went through and it seems to me that a troop working together emphasizes character above everything else. It would seem that in this conversation they would talk to each other in the period leading up to whatever decision they would make on organization and probably would not be surprised that superintendent A voted this way, or another voted another way.
     I would ask the hon. member, based on his years serving, if those conversations would not take place and whether intimidation would be a factor for these young men and women who have gone through such a tremendous training regimen and graduated with the great character that they have. Would they be afraid to speak their minds, especially in the context that they would have been having these discussions all along? I wonder if my colleague would reply to that.


    Madam Speaker, I thank the hon. member's son for his service. I am not sure if I met him yet, but I will make a point of doing that. I try to meet most of them on the Hill, but there are a fair number of them here.
    Intimidation is a big word but it can also be a small word. The member said it very well. When 32 members go through training as a troop, they learn to work together and work as a team. The aspect behind this is that when they get out in the field, they might be in a two-man detachment, 10-man detachment, or a 20-man detachment, but they work as a team, especially on a watch. They become very close and may have frank discussions whether they believe this is right or wrong, and they may not want to disappoint their buddy. That is intimidation. That is where the problems come in.
    RCMP members may not want to disappoint the guy on the right or left that they are working with, so they may just vote because they want to be part of the group. That is not right. They should be free to vote the way their conscience tells them to without having to worry about what a constable, or a sergeant, or a corporal might think or feel. They should be able to do it comfortably on their own as they work to protect their communities because they are proud to serve.
    Madam Speaker, my question for the member is about what I would call blue herrings, instead of red herrings, and the idea that the Supreme Court required a union. The Supreme Court decision does not require a union. It gives the RCMP members a choice of how they wish to be represented. It simply removed the prohibition on their being in a union. I know he said this is the only case where people are required to have a union, but they are not required by this decision to have a union.
    All other police in Canada have chosen freely to have unions, so it seems to me there is a bit of a non-issue here about intimidation to join a union, when police across the country in all the other jurisdictions have joined unions of their own free will.
    The second part of that is the idea of a secret ballot. What people are deciding is whether to join an organization or not. No one is required to join a union, even if the union exists and the fact that someone has joined or not joined a union is public. Ultimately, in police unions someone will know what decision a member has made anyway. The idea that somehow the secret ballot that applies in elections applies when members are signing up to be a member of a union or not, it is a completely different issue. I would ask the member for his comments.
    Madam Speaker, I am not sure exactly what the member was referring to, but the only way I can answer that is to ask if the person asking the question could stand and tell me of any police force in Canada or any union that when first formed did it with an open public vote. Or did they do it in secret? I believe that is what we are dealing with here. I focused mainly on the right of individual RCMP members to vote by secret ballot for the initial phase of deciding whether they want to unionize or not. I clearly understand that they have the right to have a union or not, but give them that right to decide with a secret ballot.


    Madam Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for Yellowhead for his speech. I think all of us in the House, and all Canadians for that matter, should take note, given the fact that he has 35 years of experience with the RCMP and he knows what he speaks of. Until any of us have walked in those shoes, or those of any RCMP member across this country, I think we should be listening to the members.
    In fact, what we saw through the committee process was that there were not enough members of the RCMP coming forward, for many reasons, to talk about what they wanted to talk about, and that is, at least from many of the emails that I am getting, the right to have a secret ballot.
    The hon. member spoke to this specifically in another question, but I would like his view again, and perhaps he would like to add more with respect to younger members of emergency services, and I will not specifically direct it to the RCMP, and the influence that older members, those who are in positions of authority and rank, can have with respect to younger members through intimidation, and in some cases it could be coercion as well, to vote in a manner in which they did not intend for the purposes of pleasing somebody else. I wonder if the hon. member can speak to that a little bit more.
    Madam Speaker, I do not brag a lot about my service, but in my 35 years, I was one of the few members to get the opportunity to command five different detachments, from a two-man corporal detachment, to a sergeant, to a staff sergeant, to an inspector's detachment.
    To answer the member's question, when a young constable comes to a detachment, especially a smaller detachment, he looks up to the guy in charge. He wants to impress the guy who is in charge, because the guy who is in charge is going to be rating his performance, his ability to interact with the community, and his future is going to stand on what this person says. Therefore, he wants to impress the commander, whether that be a corporal, sergeant, staff sergeant, inspector, or so on. He is probably going to follow the tone of the detachment commander or maybe his corporal if it is a watch commander or a sergeant watch commander. He is probably going to follow, and that is not quite right.
    Yes, he should follow them, but he should have that liberty, especially when being asked to decide whether there should be a union within the RCMP, to make that decision in a secret ballot.
    Madam Speaker, I have been listening to the debate today. Drawing upon my colleague's years of experience, I wonder if he were in the position of a constable today, would he choose to unionize or not?
    Madam Speaker, that is a tough question.
    I would say in the mid-1990s, and I left in 2001, things started deteriorating. The DSR program, as I call it, the division staff relations, was a great program initially, but government kind of destroyed it.
    Initially, I would never have voted for a union, but if I were to put myself in the rank and file situation as I see it today, with the low level of pay they are getting, as well as the low level of compensation in isolated posts, and an isolated post in B.C. could have a $20,000 difference to that in Quebec, I would probably vote union.


     It is my duty, pursuant to Standing Order 38, to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, Ethics; the hon. member for Sherbrooke, Ethics.



    Madam Speaker, it is a real pleasure for me to join this important debate on Bill C-7.
    I appreciate hearing the thoughtful comments from all members in this House, especially the contribution of members like the member for Yellowhead who just spoke, who have significant experience themselves, or, in other cases, experience through their families with the RCMP. We are all very grateful for their service and for the context that members coming from different walks of life bring to this place.
    For people elsewhere who may have just started watching this debate, I want to start my remarks by reviewing some of the basic groundwork in terms of what this bill does.
    This legislation seeks to implement a Supreme Court decision that opened the door for the RCMP to form a union. We, in the official opposition, respect the decision of the Supreme Court and recognize that RCMP members are entitled to pursue membership in a union.
    We think there are many aspects of Bill C-7 that are positive. In general, it is a reasonable response to the court ruling.
    However, on this side of the House, we have consistently taken a very clear position on the importance of a secret ballot. I will talk more about why a secret ballot is important in this specific context and in general. However, that is the principal stumbling block on this legislation for those of us in the official opposition.
     We think there are a lot of good things about this legislation, but it is not acceptable to us that a mechanism would be created for joining a union, for electing officials, for anything of that nature, that does not involve a proper democratic process.
    Also, by way of context, it is important that the public knows that wage disputes will still be resolved through binding arbitration. This does not open the door to police officers being on strike or anything like that. That is an important element of context as we approach this legislation and the discussion around it.
    As we are talking about the RCMP, I want to acknowledge the important work that RCMP officers do across this country, especially in my riding of Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan. We do not have municipal police forces in my constituency. We are fully served by the women and men in the RCMP, and the great work that they do.
    The RCMP is an icon. It is one of those recognizable Canadian icons around the world. At the local level, I have personally seen the great work that the RCMP does with the community. That is not just front-end policing, but also engaging in a constructive way with members of the community and with community organizations on issues like education, crime prevention, and those kinds of things.
    I am very grateful for the contribution of the RCMP in my constituency and across the country, as well as here on Parliament Hill. We are supported in our work and our functions here by the security that members of the RCMP provide.
    I talked earlier about the importance of the secret ballot for us. It is surprising that the government does not get it. I have said before that I would have thought that the debate on the secret ballot was concluded in the 19th century. To coin a phrase, it is 2016. It is strange that there still is no recognition by the government and by other parties of the importance of the secret ballot.
    I will say that it is not only this bill but the process that brings this bill forward that marks a double attack against democracy. We not only have an attack on the principle of the secret ballot, but we also have the government not respecting the prerogative of members who wish to speak to the bill by moving forward with their overly aggressive approach to time allocation.
    I do think there are appropriate uses of time allocation, of course. These are cases where maybe opposition parties are engaging in deleterious tactics. The government does, in certain contexts, have to move legislation forward. However, in a fairly short time, we have seen the government ramping up the scales on the use of time allocation or closure. This bill is no exception, in spite of the goodwill from the opposition and the effort to work constructively on allocation of time around these things.


    We have had this on the euthanasia and assisted suicide bill, and on the budget bill. With regard to this legislation, which is under the gun of time allocation, what the government is doing here is perhaps not as egregious as we have seen in some other cases. I have mentioned. Bill C-14 as one of the most difficult and challenging issues that Parliament has dealt with in a very long time. However, there is still a failure to recognize the importance of the secret ballot and the prerogative of members wanting to speak to and have a fulsome debate on legislation like this. It is a concerning pattern that we see of the government not respecting the principles that should be very important to a well-functioning democratic polity.
    That puts this in some important context. On the substantive side, as we talk about the issue of the secret ballot, I want to start by talking about responses to some of the different kinds of arguments we have heard today in this debate, and some of the specific issues around the secret ballot in the context of the RCMP. After that, I will talk about some of the underlying foundational and motivating arguments about the secret ballot and why secret ballots are important. Again, I do not think these are arguments that should have to be made, but clearly they need to be made.
    In the context of this specific bill and the RCMP, I want to talk specifically about secret ballots in the context of government certification. We can look at the workplace in some sense as a sort of negotiation, maybe a competition, between workers and their employers. There are certain tools that workers have, and there are certain tools that employers have. It is worth acknowledging that in that sort of imagined competition, public sector workers have an additional advantage. They can bring public pressure to bear on the government to try to bring about concessions in the process of collective bargaining or other forms of negotiation over wages. This is a strategic advantage in that competition or relationship that does not exist in the private sector.
    A group of private sector employees cannot organize to vote out their employer, but that is something that public sector employees can do. Therefore, there are additional tools that are available to the public sector. That needs to be recognized and acknowledged as we talk about these dynamics. That helps us to understand the history of why there are higher levels of unionization in the public sector, and also why every certification vote in the public sector has happened via secret ballot, which has led to these higher rates of unionization. There is this strategic advantage.
    To the extent that members may raise concerns about employer intimidation preventing certification, it would have to be acknowledged that it is much less plausible in the context of the public sector, again because of these strategic dynamics. Taking that into consideration, it is difficult to justify not allowing a secret ballot in this specific context. The worries that might exist around this in other sectors could be plausibly applied in the case of the public sector.
    One of the other strands we have heard in this debate is members saying that a secret ballot could still happen, that, after all, the legislation does not effectively prohibit the use of a secret ballot but simply leaves that determination to a subsequent discussion and evaluation. That is true. There is nothing in this legislation that prohibits the use of a secret ballot. It is possible that a secret ballot could be used or not, but I do not think it is good enough. If one believes that a secret ballot is important, and I think members would acknowledge in many cases how critical a secret ballot is, I do not think it is sufficient to say that there might be a secret ballot.
    If I told my constituents that in the next election some ridings in Canada will have secret ballots if we determine they need them and other ridings will not have secret ballots if we determine they do not need them, I do not think my constituents would be particularly satisfied with that. They would say that if a secret ballot is the most fair, honest, reasonable, and democratic way of conducting an election, then why should that not be available to everyone? Why should it not be a guarantee instead of just a possibility? I do not think the argument that there might be a secret ballot holds much water.


    We have had some discussion in this debate about the extent to which the RCMP is like the rest of the public service and the extent to which the RCMP is different. It was interesting. I listened to the speech of my friend from Oakville North—Burlington. In the context of questions and comments, she effectively gave very different answers to that question, first in response to my question, and then in response to a question from the member for Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke. She said on the one hand that we need to have the same process as other public sector individuals, and then she said the RCMP is different. Which is it? This would be our take on that.
     Certainly there are important differences between the RCMP and other organizations within the public service. That is why it was important to have some of the variations, some of the exclusions, which were put in this legislation. I think at least our party and the government acknowledged the importance of those exclusions, and our members worked very hard at the committee to refine and deepen those exclusions.
    However, the secret ballot is important for everyone. We would advocate a secret ballot in all cases, as we have done on a variety of different measures. The principle of a secret ballot for choosing representatives, for choosing which bargaining unit, or if an individual would like to associate with a particular bargaining unit, is so important that it should not be left to chance. It should not be maybe sometimes and maybe not elsewhere. That is why we have advocated for this consistently across the board.
    As well, it is particularly important to have a secret ballot in the case of the RCMP. These are, after all, the women and men on the front lines who are defending us, protecting the physical security of our democracy. We call on the RCMP to ensure the safety and stability of the democratic process and of our lives within this country. For us to then deny the RCMP the same rights that others have in other contexts when they elect people, to deny them the right to the secret ballot in this case, would seem particularly perverse, to me at least. At the same time that they are protecting our fundamental democratic rights, that we would deny those rights to them as members of the RCMP—notwithstanding that we think the secret ballot should be available to all—in that particular situation is quite perverse.
    The discussion has also been around the alternative to the secret ballot and how that would look in practice in the RCMP. Some members favour a card-check system. For those who do not know, a card-check system basically involves some members who are seeking a certification asking other members of a potential bargaining unit who want to certify to then sign and check on a card that they would like to sign up. If a certain threshold is achieved in terms of these sign-ups, then there is no subsequent process of deliberation or election; the certification simply then occurs after that card-check system has been evaluated. It occurs automatically.
    There are a lot of obvious problems with that. This is a form of public ballot. It does not respect the privacy of the individuals who are being asked to sign. However, a card-check system, as has been pointed out, is particularly inappropriate in the context of the RCMP. We have a very hierarchical structure in which people have to rely on each other all the time.
    Members of the RCMP may wish to discuss their political conviction in the context of that environment. They may feel comfortable doing so, and they may feel that their ability to work with their colleagues is not compromised by that. However, that should be their choice. The effect of having a card-check system for certification in this context would be that members might be forced to declare their union convictions through other members. This could have a negative effect, in certain cases, on the collegiality that is so important for the functioning of our national police force.


    Therefore, why not simply ensure that members have the privacy they deserve? Why not ensure we have a guarantee of a secret ballot?
    My friend from Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke said something interesting. He said that the proposal for a secret ballot does not need to apply in this case because we are not talking about a public vote. He said that in a sense individuals could choose whether or not they want to join the organization and therefore there is no need for a secret ballot, if I understood what he was saying correctly.
    Of course, it just needs to be said that we are talking about what would be a closed shop union. If the RCMP chose to certify, all members of the RCMP, even if they were individually not interested in being part of the union, would have to at least pay dues to the union. This is the process that exists. This is not analogous to simply whether or not an individual chooses to sign up with the local Rotary Club, or Elks, or something like that. This is a question of a whole professional group being brought into a union, potentially against the preferences of some of those members. This is more analogous to a general election in which we would respect and widely recognize the importance of a secret ballot.
    Another comment that some members have made during this debate is that secret ballots reduce the rate of unionization. Frankly, that tips their hand a bit because the goal should not be to ensure the maximum level of unionization. The goal should be to ensure a fair process whereby workers can decide if they want to be part of a union. Of course, one could design a system, maybe a card check or something else, that would maximize the rates of certification, but if that happens at the expense of a fair and democratic process in which workers can actually express themselves, then that is not the best direction to go. The goal should be a fair process, and then we would let those who are involved in a fair process decide. A fair process in a democracy will produce the best outcome according to democratic principles, but if we do not have a fair process just because we want a particular outcome, that being higher rates of unionization, that is obviously hardly fair.
    That deals with some of the strands in the debate today. I want to just mention what I see as the foundational motivating arguments for a secret ballot. Why do we generally accept that secret ballots are important? First, I think we all understand that people have a right to privacy with respect to their political opinions. Of course, people have the right to express their opinions on issues like certification and other issues, but they also have a right to not express their opinions, to not wish for their co-workers, their employees, even members of their family to know how they vote or how they feel about difficult political questions. This right to privacy really emanates from the idea of autonomy, the idea of self-ownership, that our political opinions are our own and therefore we have the right to decide if we wish to dispose of them in one particular way or another. This sense of the separation of the private space from the public space is foundational to our concept of liberal democracy. It is why we have a secret ballot.
    Of course, the secret ballot ensures protection from reprisals. I talked before in the House on a previous bill about the history of secret ballots and how one time when we had public ballots people could be intimidated. They could face reprisals, or could lose employment as a result of how they voted in the then-public ballot. Thus we moved to a secret ballot.
    Another reason we have secret ballots is protection against corruption. If we see how someone votes there is a greater risk of someone being offered an inducement. That cannot happen if there is a secret ballot.
    Finally is the importance of a vote being preceded by deliberation. This is not possible in the context of a card check system, where someone might sign the card and then read an article or develop new information and think something different later on. One does not have the option of changing one's mind in a card check system but in a secret ballot process there is deliberation, debate, good discussion, and then individuals can come to their conclusions at the appropriate time.


    For these reasons, despite some good aspects, I will have to oppose the bill unless the government accepts an amendment to respect the right of members of the RCMP to vote by a secret ballot.


    Madam Speaker, I have a fairly simple question.
    I would like my colleague from Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan to tell me whether he believes that unions are a good thing in general.
    Does he think that unions have improved the situation of workers in the west and throughout the world? Does he think unions are useful or would he rather they be done away with?


    Madam Speaker, I am happy to answer a fairly easy question. Yes, unions have had and continue to have an important function. I know many individuals who have received valuable training support as well as advocacy through unions. Many of the basic things that we rely on today in terms of workplace safety and protection from harassment were advocated for and protected by unions long before they were protected in legislation.
    It is not a reasonable or appropriate tactic to try and cast every discussion about the certification process in terms of whether or not one is pro or anti-union. I cannot speak for others necessarily, but personally I very much appreciate the value of unions but I also appreciate the importance of a fair process for determining certification. It strengthens unions when there is a credible and fair process that allows those who choose to join to do so or not using a secret ballot.
    Madam Speaker, I always find my colleague's contributions important even though I almost always disagree with him.
    In this case I simply do not see where the issue is coming from in terms of whether or not the RCMP wishes to form a union. When surveyed, over half of the uniformed members replied they did wish to have collective bargaining rights. All the other police forces all across the country voluntarily selected to have unions to collectively bargain for them.
    It seems to me we are creating some phantom problem here that the Conservatives are trying to solve in their opposition to the bill when no such problem actually exists. In most police forces the rank and file members are quite happy to elect their own representatives in collective bargaining.
    Madam Speaker, I appreciate the member's kind words. He and I worked together on the Canada-Tibet Interparliamentary Friendship Group. I appreciate his work there and the opportunity to work on that other important issue.
    With respect to his comments here today though, he said that members seem to want to form a union according to surveys. If that is true, then what is the issue of having a secret ballot? It goes both ways. If it is going to happen anyway, then what is the harm of using a proper secret ballot process, a proper democratic process? There really is no harm in that.
    I will just remind the member that the question in any certification discussion is not just whether or not to join a union, it is also whether or not to join that particular union and not to perhaps respond to a different, possible certification application. Even if members agree that they are interested in having a union, the question remains of what kind of union, which union might well be more contentious. That is why it is important to have the fair process of a secret ballot.
    Madam Speaker, could the member be clear and decisive in terms of why he believes that the RCMP should have the secret ballot? His vote later on today will clearly indicate that his party is against the bill.
    In principle, this legislation would establish a union for the RCMP. Other law agencies across Canada have already been unionized. Many unions in every region of the country do not have the secret ballot. It seems to me that the Conservatives are using the secret ballot as a cop-out in order to justify voting against giving the RCMP the right to organize. The RCMP has been recognized around the world as a great institution.


    Madam Speaker, I am sure the member listened to my speech and is well aware of my position with respect to this bill generally and with respect to unions more generally. Unions have an important role to play and it is certainly important that this Parliament respond to and indeed implement the Supreme Court decision with respect to RCMP entitlement to collectively bargain. There is no dispute around that, and of course Conservatives have been constructive throughout this process of Bill C-7.
    However, good intentions are not enough. Good intentions in terms of implementing this process are not enough when there is this huge problem, what I would call for me a poison pill in this legislation, which is the refusal of the government to respect the right of those who play a critical function defending our democracy, standing up for our political and democratic rights; and that they would not be given the right, through a proper democratic secret ballot process, to be involved in determining whether to form a union and exactly which union they would form. These are important issues, and I just cannot vote in favour of legislation, however good some parts of it may be, that has that kind of lack of respect, I would argue, for this important Canadian institution.
     If the government is keen on getting consensus, I hope the Liberals would consider even at this late stage working on a possible change for this legislation that would make it more supportable. However, at this stage of course the government has the votes to pass this legislation if members come for that vote. I cannot support legislation that contains such a significant problem for our democracy.
    Madam Speaker, I enjoy my hon. colleague's interventions as well.
    I would like to ask this of my hon. colleague from Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan. Does he feel that the government continues to throw out the language that the Conservative Party and official opposition are against unionization, that we are against the front-line workers of the RCMP? Is this just another smokescreen, another deflection for the Liberals' mishandling of this piece of legislation?
    Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question and for the excellent work he is doing on this bill.
    I do find it unfortunate when members make arguments that are about things unrelated to the legislation, when they try to dress this up in something that really is not about the substance of the bill. We have been clear on this side of the House about what our specific concerns are. Some members of the government are willing to engage on that point, but others would perhaps like to divert and make this discussion about something else. I and members on our side of the House have been very clear about the importance of implementing the Supreme Court decision and the important role that unions play.
     I am grateful for the contribution of unions and union members in my community and I was grateful to have the active involvement of some union members as part of my campaign. Union members are not monolithic, and in general many are involved with the Conservative Party. Part of that is because our emphasis is on respecting process and on respecting them and the important role that unions play, but also on ensuring that certification happens through a proper, open, democratic process that ensures that people can express their views without having it be in a very public way.
    Madam Speaker, I would like to start in a way that almost all members have when they began speaking to Bill C-7 and express my thanks to the RCMP for the work its members do every day in our communities and at the federal level in policing to keep us safe. We have one of the most dedicated and skilled police forces anywhere in the world, but it can be improved. It can be better.
    I know it is going to get better because, like others who have already spoken, I know one of the new people out front this week. He is one of the people I met as a young leader when he was in high school in Esquimalt; he eventually became our house- and dog-sitter, and now he is out front as a new RCMP officer, defending this House instead of our house at home.
    I have also seen the RCMP at work in my own constituency. The West Shore RCMP polices over half of my riding, by geography, with 65 sworn members, and it was fortunate enough to get four added in 2015, which did a little bit to catch up with the population growth. I have a riding that is growing very rapidly in population, and it is most rapid in the areas policed by the RCMP. They always have a challenge in keeping up with that.
    I personally have also seen the RCMP at work as part of UN peacekeeping missions. I served in East Timor, where the RCMP played a very important role in training the new police force that was being established in that country, and it did a really excellent job, which was well respected by others who were also involved in police training. I also saw the RCMP at work in Afghanistan when I was part of an international human rights mission there, and I saw the very difficult task that Canadian RCMP members had taken on in trying to help train the Afghan police in a real absence of a tradition of independent and rights-based policing like the one we have in Canada.
    I think there are some 84 RCMP members who are serving on UN peacekeeping missions around the world at this time. So like everyone in the House, we do appreciate the service of the RCMP and its dedication.
    I am also familiar with the issues of policing because I taught criminal justice for 20 years in a program at Camosun College in Victoria, which is largely a police and prison guard training program. Many of my former students have gone on to be RCMP members. At very large demonstrations or walks in my riding I have been talking to some of the police, and once someone came over and asked if I was in some kind of trouble and offered to help. I said that, no, they were my ex-students and I actually knew the police and there was no problem.
    I am probably also one of a very small number of members in the House who sat across from a police union as the employer in bargaining, so I started my public career as a member of a municipal police board. As a member of the police board, I drew the short straw, as we all thought it was, and I was assigned finance and collective bargaining. I actually did sit across from the police union of a very small municipal police force and hashed through the kind of issues that are of concern in the RCMP today. Therefore, I know something about that from personal experience, and I will come back to that.
    As the NDP public safety critic for the last five years, I have worked very closely with the Canadian Police Association and also with the Mounted Police Professional Association. They have been very concerned to make progress after the Supreme Court decision almost a year and a half ago now toward getting organization in place to represent the rank and file RCMP. I want to credit the work of both Tom Stamatakis as president of the Canadian Police Association and Rae Banwarie as president of the Mounted Police Professional Association for working with all members of the House in trying to make sure we get the right kind of legislation in place.
    There is a long history of controversy about police unions in this country. It stretches all the way back to when the first unions were certified, and that was in 1918, I believe, although I have not been teaching this now for a number of years. Toronto and Vancouver both certified unions for their police in 1918. We went through a series of strikes including the general strike in Winnipeg, a police strike in the U.K., and a police strike in Toronto. It ushered in a period of regulation of police unions and attempts to restrict rights to bargain and rights to strike. Up to World War II, we had periods of greater and lesser freedom of police to unionize, in all areas but never the RCMP.


    At the end of World War II, in 1945, I think largely as a result of the idea that we had fought a great war for democracy and freedom, very large collective bargaining rights in the public sector began to be granted, including the Toronto police union, which was again certified as a bargaining agent for the Toronto police in 1945. That movement really grew over the next 20 years, until virtually all the police forces had unionized, except the RCMP.
    In the 1960s, when public servants were granted the right to have unions, even to strike under some circumstances, the RCMP was specifically excluded. Therefore, what we are really dealing with today is that exclusion that was written down finally in law in the 1960s.
    By the 1970s, there was already discussion about whether it would not be better to allow RCMP members to decide for themselves if they wished to have a union, rather than to keep them under a legislated prohibition. A predecessor here, the former MP for Burnaby—Douglas, Svend Robinson—I think it was in 1979—introduced one of the first bills calling for the removal of the restriction on the right of the RCMP to unionize.
    Mr. Kennedy Stewart: He is here today.
    Mr. Randall Garrison: I did see him in the precinct today, Madam Speaker. He now works for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, so he is still doing very good work.
    The Supreme Court of Canada decision is what brought us to where we are today. It is interesting that the Supreme Court has very rarely overruled itself. It has very rarely overruled its previous decisions. In 1999, it had upheld the prohibition on an RCMP union, so I would say it was very unexpected in the legal community that there was such a clear decision in January 2015 in favour of the right of the RCMP members to unionize. It was a six-to-one decision at that time.
    Let me read a couple of quotes from the Supreme Court majority in that decision. It states:
    We conclude that the s. 2(d) guarantee of freedom of association 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.
    It is saying that the regime that was in place, the staff representatives, did not provide what other Canadians were entitled to under the charter, which was to have a choice about who represents them and have those representatives be independent of the RCMP management in this case.
    The decision went on to state:
    While the RCMP’s mandate differs from that of other police forces, there is no evidence that providing the RCMP a labour relations scheme similar to that enjoyed by other police forces would prevent it from fulfilling its mandate.
    What it is really saying is what we know to be true, that in order to have restrictions on rights in Canada, our Constitution requires that they be reasonable, demonstrably justified, and proportionate to some public interest. What the court found in this case is that there was no public interest that justified these kinds of restrictions on collective bargaining for the RCMP.
    Quite often in the House, we have talked about “deadlines” set by the Supreme Court: in the case of assisted suicide and in the case of this bill on RCMP unionization. I have always argued, and will still argue, that these are not deadlines. What the court said in both of these cases is that it finds the existing laws unconstitutional, but it will give Parliament a chance to legislate if it wishes to do something different. If Parliament does not legislate by this date, then the law that was in existence will be unconstitutional and the normal legal framework will apply. If we did not pass this by the deadline, which we clearly have not, the RCMP would fall under the Public Service Labour Relations Act.
    I am not arguing that we do not need a bill. I actually think there are some justifications for having a bill and for separating the RCMP out from other labour relations associations. The surprise, or not surprise, I guess I would say, is that the Canadian Police Association and the Mounted Police Professional Association also agree with that. There is no demand for all of them to become teamsters or steelworkers. That is not what they are looking for.
    Bill C-7 says that there should be one national union representing police only, and that is not really a controversial point, so having a bill that would establish that framework is not a bad idea. However, that is probably about as far as I can go with Bill C-7, because the other main provisions of the bill take away all the aspects that really make meaningful collective bargaining.


    I would submit that, just like the bill that was presented on assisted suicide, Bill C-14, Bill C-7 is probably unconstitutional. It is certain to launch another whole round of litigation and will force the spending of both RCMP members' money and public money, as well as the court's time on something we really do not need to do.
    The court decision was quite clear at six to one. If we respected that decision in the proposed law, we would be done with this. The new regime of labour relations could then get on with the job of improving the RCMP and the working conditions, including the health and safety of RCMP members. Again, we must remember that our constitutional regime says that the limits are acceptable on rights only if they are reasonable and demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society, and if these limits are proportional to a specific public objective.
    What is the public objective in saying that this new labour relations organization could not talk about staffing, deployment, harassment, or discipline? Again, in the quote I read earlier from the decision, it is very clear that the court said that there is no public objective that justifies limiting collective bargaining for the RCMP. Therefore, I would argue that, in parallel, there is also no public objective being achieved by these specific exclusions from collective bargaining.
     I do not think we have heard from the government why it selected these things. I have not heard the justification for these exclusions, and the Liberals have not given me a legal argument of how they think this would stand up in court, if we get there again. As I said, I think Bill C-7 is bound for litigation, and that is an unfortunate thing.
    Our courts are clogged with all kinds of important issues, and to have their time taken up with something that has been there in 1999 and 2015, to have it back sometime later this year or in 2017 is a waste of everyone's time and resources.
     I, of course, as a member of the NDP, supported our position that these exclusions should have been taken out at committee stage. Unfortunately, the government failed to do that, and I believe the Conservatives also supported leaving these exclusions in. However, I will give credit to the government here that it did agree to remove clauses 40 and 42, which would have placed occupational health and safety under workers' compensation boards province by province.
     Clearly, there are some exceptional things about the RCMP as a workforce, and it would not have been acceptable to establish a regime where RCMP members, depending on where they were stationed, would be eligible for different kinds of compensation, benefits, or rehabilitation. Therefore, I do applaud the government in agreeing with both the Conservatives and the NDP to take out clauses 40 and 42 and keep occupational health and safety a uniform regime across the country, so that it would not really matter where an RCMP member served, because RCMP members would be entitled to the same package of benefits and protections.
    When we talk about staffing, deployment, harassment, and discipline being excluded, what does that actually mean? This is where I go back to all four things I dealt with almost 20 years ago when I first took on being the labour relations representative of my police board.
    Staffing is the question of how much work one has to do, whether the vacant positions are filled, and how long is acceptable to leave positions vacant. I know from the RCMP in my own riding on the west shore, where the population was growing and the demands were very great, that there was concern from rank and file members over those four positions that they should have had, that were authorized, but I believe took six years to fill, and it could have been longer. My memory does not serve me so well, because it was so long in actually getting the people they needed.
    What impact does that have on the operation of the RCMP? Well, one could say that it causes it to spend more money or it takes away management prerogatives. However, I can tell members that, from the point of view of rank and file people, staffing is about how much overtime they have to work that they do not want to work, that they would rather spend with their family, or rather spend, as most RCMP officers do, volunteering in community events. They wonder if they would be forced to work overtime because those vacancies have not been filled.
    This is not to say that the new union of the members would fill the vacancies or decide when they are filled, but they might be able to argue in bargaining what a reasonable time frame would be when a position is not filled. They could say in their collective agreement that, when a position is vacant, it must be filled within six months or within a year. Why is that not something they could bargain about? It is something certainly that I bargained about with our police union: what is an acceptable time frame for filling vacancies?


    I simply do not understand why that would not be subject to collective bargaining for the RCMP.
    The second one would be deployment. The question of deployment was that of relief and backup, in particular, in municipal forces. How many officers per car? Was it safe to have one officer per car, or did it require two? Through negotiations, after I left the board, it was finally resolved that there were different hours of the day that required different deployment and staffing.
    However, what we got through collective bargaining was the input of those rank-and-file members who said that in the daytime it was probably okay to have one officer per car because there were a lot of people on duty, and a lot of resources and backup to call on. However, at nighttime, one person in the car, at three a.m., was probably not a good idea. That was what we were discussing at that time. Again, I do not see how that does not do anything but contribute to better policing for the community and better working conditions for the RCMP, to be able to discuss deployment.
    The RCMP also has a lot of very small detachments. One of the big problems that comes up in those detachments is relief. If the RCMP officer is the only officer or one of two officers in a community, how does he or she get any relief from the 24-hour a day demands? What would be wrong with negotiating that if he or she has been the only one, or the only two officers, for a certain period of time, then someone has to come in and relieve the officer of those duties? That would be discussed at collective bargaining. Again, it is about better community policing and better working conditions for RCMP members.
    The question of harassment is the one that is the most shocking to me. We dealt with harassment in the police force. When I was appointed to the board, I was the first openly gay police board member in British Columbia. We sat down with the union. First, I had met with the chief, and I said, “Just so you know, my mother already knows.” The chief said, “We already know. We are not called the police for nothing.” We got off to a very good start by having harassment training.
    The union met with the board, and we agreed to do harassment training. No one forced anyone to do training. The Board members said that they would go through the training first, and would then ask the union to agree to go through it.
    The union president at that time said that it was a complete waste of time. At the end of it, he came back and said that he was wrong, that there were practices taking place in our force that he did not even recognize as harassment.
    The last one is discipline. When there is bargaining about discipline, it is not saying the rank-and-file members get to decide if someone is disciplined. They need a voice on what is a fair process for discipline and a voice on what is fair representation.
     Those are the kinds of issues with which I had to deal. What are the right time frames? What evidence should be available? Are police officers held to the legal standards of the court in their own disciplinary proceedings? Is that fair or should there be some other disciplinary process agreed to?
    Again, all four of these things that are excluded are crucial to having a good working environment for RCMP rank-and-file members, and they also contribute to better policing of our communities.
    I know my time is drawing short, but I want to talk about one more staffing issue which has been on my radar since I first got involved in policing. It is the question of recruitment and retirement. It will probably come to a shock to most members in the House that one out of ten police officers in the entire country is currently eligible to retire tomorrow. Officers are staying on and working because of their dedication, but they are already eligible to retire.
    How will we deal with that crisis of person power in the RCMP? One of the best ways to do that is to work with the members of the RCMP who are serving now and ask them what are reasonable ways to conquer what is really a crisis.
    The other one is recruitment. At the beginning there was some resistance, even in our police force, to using diversity as a criteria in recruiting. We worked with the union at the time. Again, the same union president came back to me and said that when I said that we were not a very diverse police force—we were are all white men—that this was obvious. What was not obvious were the benefits that would come to policing from having a more diverse police force.
    They hired two people from the first nations community and two gay and lesbian police officers. He told me that they now had contacts in communities that they never had before, and it helped them do a better job of policing.
    Again, negotiating with the rank-and-file unions about issues of staffing, like recruitment, retention, and retirement, will lead to better policing for all of us.
     I am sorry I cannot vote for the bill that would establish a framework for a union for the RCMP, but my reason for doing that is the unacceptable exclusions from collective bargaining.


    Mr. Speaker, I am somewhat surprised and definitely disappointed that the New Democratic Party has not recognized the principle of the legislation. The Government of Canada has said that it is committed to supporting our persons in both the regular force and the reserves of the RCMP by allowing them to organize collectively and to have that employee agency. This has come from the Supreme Court.
     I appreciate the history lesson from the member. I thought he articulated that quite well.
    What really surprises me is this. If we look at the principle, by voting against the legislation, which is what the member is doing, he is in essence saying no to the unionization of the RCMP. Would he not agree that it is better to at least allow for that organization to take place, recognizing that he or his party, the NDP, might have some concerns with respect to it, and that it does at least meet the Supreme Court decision and allows our RCMP officers to unite?


    Mr. Speaker, I thank the parliamentary secretary for his question because it allows me to once again say that he is dead wrong on this. If this bill does not pass, the RCMP has the right to unionize. That is what the Supreme Court has said. Therefore, the principle is already there in the Supreme Court decision, that if we do not have this legislation, it can unionize.
    I have said that this regime, which demands or requires one national union and one exclusive to policing, is a good idea. However, that is not just my opinion, that is the opinion of most of the police officers, and certainly of their associations.
    When it comes to saying that by voting against this, I am voting against collective bargaining, I would say the opposite. Voting for a bill that leaves essentially only pay and benefits to be bargained is not collective bargaining. All of those other issues that are excluded are at the heart of what most people want to do as part of their union, not just to get more money or benefits, but to have a workplace that contributes to doing the job well.
    Mr. Speaker, I thank our hon. colleague from Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke, but I want to put a different spin on it.
    We have talked a lot about unionization, secret ballot, and what is included in Bill C-7 for negotiations and what has been left out. However, the hon. colleague mentioned his experience in negotiating contracts at the municipal level.
     In my riding of Cariboo—Prince George, our communities are struggling for the capacity to pay for increased policing costs. Ultimately, whatever costs are negotiated in collective bargaining are downloaded onto our provinces and our communities. In budget 2016, the Liberal government has failed to increase policing or any increased monies for police forces. Is this a further cause for concern and evidence that the bill and the government's point of view is flawed with respect to pushing this through?
    Mr. Speaker, the hon. member for Cariboo—Prince George is one of the new members whose comments and contributions I have learned to respect in the House. He raises a very good point.
    Having a union is not necessarily something that always increases costs. Given the context the government has given with respect to the RCMP, which is essentially a budget cut, it is not enough money to keep up with the increasing costs. We know that it is not enough money to backfill all of those empty positions that have been sitting there, unfortunately under the previous Conservative government.
     However, the process of collective bargaining can also lead to more effective and efficient policing, which is less costly for those communities. When rank and file RCMP officers on the west shore were calling to have those positions filled, the municipalities were passing resolutions saying that they knew they would have to pay more but they needed to fill those positions to keep their communities safe.
     Therefore, I recognize the challenge of increasing policing costs for municipalities as I sat on a municipal council after the police board. However, having a union can also promote efficiency and effectiveness as well.