Public Service Labour Relations Act

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from South Surrey—White Rock for bringing her experience to this House.

The best part of this new Parliament, from the viewpoint of the opposition, is not the fact that we are in opposition—that is certainly not a bright point at all—but the fact that one-third of our caucus is now made up of new members of Parliament.

The hon. member who just spoke brings to this House her experience as a municipal leader, particularly in Surrey, as she mentioned, which has the largest RCMP detachment in the country. In recent years, that has probably been the most tasked detachment in the country, working with challenges in violence and organized crime that the area has seen. Her leadership as mayor was recognized long before she joined this Parliament.

That is when the House of Commons is at its best. It is when we have members of this place rising in the House to talk on legislation, not just based on what is contained in it, but how it impacts the lives of those impacted by the bill, how the work done by the men and women of the RCMP in Surrey, indeed across the country, is fundamental to the safety and security of the people of Canada and the people of Surrey. They reached out to her council while she led council there, with concerns about crime and these sorts of things.

As a mayor, she also brought to the debate the impact of uniformed service on men and women in the RCMP, the rise of operational stress injuries, the risk of violence, the impact on family of stress, moves, and these sorts of things. I appreciate her addition to the debate here today, and her discussions with me and other members of our caucus on Bill C-7.

It is her input, and the input of members of the RCMP across the country, that is leading the official opposition to oppose Bill C-7. As members may recall at the introduction of this bill, I said we would try to work with the government on it.

Bill C-7 is in this place as a result of the Mounted Police Association of Ontario v. Canada. This was a Supreme Court decision that stated that the staff relations program at the RCMP was not sufficient to meet the rights of association guaranteed to all Canadians under the charter.

That program was an internal HR function that tried to work between management and the men and women on the front lines of the RCMP. The Supreme Court decision stated that the exclusion of the RCMP from the Public Sector Labour Relations Act and its inability to associate violated the charter. Therefore, Bill C-7 is here before us.

In my speech, I said we would work with the government as a result of the timeline that the Supreme Court of Canada gave Parliament to provide a framework so the men and women of the RCMP could get union representation in a way that suits the needs of the unique role that the RCMP plays.

I remind members of this House, I remind the government, that it was given a lot of flexibility by the court. The key element, though, was that it had to be free from management. This type of collective structure needed that degree of independence from management. The rights and the freedoms of members needed to be reflected in that association, so their charter rights needed to be secured.

We did not see that in Bill C-7, from introduction through to committee. That is why our willingness to work with the government only had the legs to get us to committee. As my friend before me said, we were very concerned with clauses 40 and 42 in Bill C-7, which could have resulted in a patchwork of entitlements by RCMP members for health and occupational safety provisions across the country.

In fact, clauses 40 and 42 have nothing to do with the standing up of a collective bargaining agent for the RCMP. It was essentially the outsourcing by the federal government of workers compensation programs to provincial regimes. As each province is different, it would have taken a single unified national police force and created a patchwork of benefits for their members, depending on where Canada asked them to serve.

We had problems with that because the men and women in RCMP uniform go where their nation needs them, whether that be to Surrey or Shelburne, Nova Scotia, similar to when I was in the Canadian Armed Forces. They should not have to worry about a patchwork of benefits and occupational rights depending on which posting they are in.

Therefore, I am happy to say that the government did listen to the concerns that the official opposition expressed with respect to clauses 40 and 42. Ultimately, I am sure that some of its own members heard from members of the RCMP, and the government agreed to strike those provisions at committee. I applaud the government for listening.

I also will remind members that I had profound concerns that some members of the RCMP felt they were being told they could not speak to their member of Parliament and express concerns they has as Canadians with respect to a bill that would impact them and their family, which is Bill C-7. Once again, the government disappointed the opposition, and as the critic, I rose in the chamber to seek unanimous consent of the House and to show that, in the matter before us that would impact thousands of Canadians across the country, none of them should be intimidated or prevented from giving their opinion to their member of Parliament. Because there was that concern within the RCMP, I stood in this House and asked for unanimous consent to say that, as parliamentarians, we should hear from all members who are impacted by the legislation that we are debating and voting on.

Sadly, members of the government denied unanimous consent for such a basic fundamental democratic right. I was not asking for the ability of uniformed RCMP members to throw up bonfires and protests; we were asking for the simple democratic right for members of the RCMP, or their partners or spouses, to be able to come to their MP and express their concerns with respect to legislation. I was profoundly disappointed when the government denied that unanimous consent that would have encouraged MPs to hear from people in uniform on what is probably the most profound bill in generations to impact the RCMP.

While we are on the topic of democratic rights, the other thing I clearly said in my initial speech on Bill C-7 was that we expect Bill C-7 and ultimately the collective bargaining unit for the RCMP to be the subject of a vote by members. We said that in the House and at committee, and the government is not providing that. If we combine Bill C-7 and Bill C-4, it would take away that right from the members of the RCMP in one bill and be silent on it in Bill C-7. The government knows full well that it will pass Bill C-4, which will deprive RCMP members of a secret ballot vote, while concurrently passing Bill C-7. That is shameful. That is why we are opposing Bill C-7.

Why is it shameful? We are debating Bill C-7 as the result of a Supreme Court of Canada decision that asked Parliament to fill the void that the Supreme Court indicated was there with respect to the exclusion of the RCMP from the Public Service Labour Relations Act. Therefore, we are here debating Bill C-7 because of a court decision. However, no members of the RCMP have really been asked about this fundamental question. Why would the government fear giving a secret ballot vote to all RCMP members from Surrey to Shelburne on a collective bargaining agent that is in their own interest?

What is ironic is that every member of the 338 members in this chamber were elected to this place by a secret ballot vote. However, they do not feel it is the same to give the basic fundamental democratic right to vote on their representation collectively to people whom we give the important task of keeping Canadians safe in rural parts of Canada, where the RCMP is the only face of the government and of law and order in this country, those members whom we ask to keep us safe. It is a sad irony that the new government that runs on and talks about sunny ways is clouding those sunny ways by running Bill C-4 and Bill C-7 through the House at the same time.

While I am glad the Liberals listened to us and struck clauses 40 and 42 from the bill, the fact that they are not listening to the existing concerns my colleague from Surrey mentioned and not giving the men and women the right to vote means that Canada’s official opposition, the Conservative Party, cannot support Bill C-7.

Stay in Touch with Erin

Sign up for email updates from Erin O'Toole to hear the latest from Ottawa and our riding.