Royal Canadian Mounted Police Labour Relations
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. minister for his kind words. He is one of the most experienced ministers in the House. I know that he will take on the public safety portfolio with that experience and with forethought, and I will be here to provide wise counsel when necessary.
On my first occasion to rise in this Parliament, I want to thank the good people of Durham for giving me the honour to represent my hometown in Parliament. I am also proud of our RCMP, Canada’s police force. I am very proud of the detachment in Bowmanville, Ontario, and the men and women who work hard every day across this great country, those in uniform and in the organizational structure of the RCMP.
Despite the sunny ways, I am sad to say that the minister has failed his first test. With the House returning on January 25, we are going to miss the deadline imposed by the Supreme Court of Canada in its decision. Much like the euthanasia case, if the government had wanted more time, it might have been prudent to seek more time from the Supreme Court of Canada, not just to express an intention, but to table the collective bargaining process outlined in the case. It was twelve months that was directly cited in that decision, and that is what the court expected.
The decision in the Mounted Police Association of Ontario v. Canada dealt with section 2(d) of the charter and highlighted the charter right to collective bargaining. The court said that the government needs to ensure there is a meaningful collective bargaining process, and it outlined in the decision that it must have two parts. The first requirement is that there must be employee choice, and the second requirement is sufficient independence.
Those items, as the minister outlined, were canvassed extensively over the last year with public safety advocates, members of the RCMP, and the various associations that brought forward this court challenge. It was to get into the details of what constitutes employee choice: the right to say who their representatives are, and the right to have some say on the prioritization of one’s association. The independence is the freedom to then make sure that the bargaining unit representative is sufficiently free from management—in this case, the department—to allow the collective bargaining process to take root appropriately.
I had hoped that the government would have tabled this new process in the House today because the Supreme Court gave the government a lot of leeway with respect to its decision. In paragraph 140 of the decision, it in fact gave Parliament “much leeway” to set up a collective bargaining process that meets the spirit and intent of its decision. It also said that the government was not forced to choose the Public Service Labour Relations Act, or any specific bargaining model. As long as the two elements of choice and sufficient independence were met, the government was free to set up a process that fit with the unique nature of a public safety arm like the RCMP.
It also noted that it did not need to be adversarial. It did not need to be the traditional union construct that is covered in the Wagner policies and others. In fact, the court highlighted and suggested the designated bargaining model as a possible option that the government could consider. It said clearly that there had to be a system in place to show that the government could not substantially interfere with the right established in section 2(d) of the charter to have a collective bargaining process for members of the RCMP.
I thank the minister for addressing the timeline that is looming when the House will not be sitting. I sincerely hope that by the time the House gets back, the hon. minister has asked the Supreme Court for additional time so that we do not have a technical breach of its decision, and that it certainly has an intention to table this new collective bargaining process in legislation in the House early in 2016.