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Perspectives — September 25 – 27, 2018
Perspectives — September 25 – 27, 2018
October 2, 2018
OPINION

Last week at the Senate: Public sector labour relations, cannabis legalization, Senator Eggleton’s retirement and national security matters.

Government

Last week, I introduced Bill C-62, An Act to amend the Federal Public Sector Labour Relations Act and other Acts. With this bill, the government aims to restore respect and equality to labour relations with its employees by removing the government’s unilateral powers and restoring to unions the power to negotiate, which they had prior to 2013. This bill applies to the public service only.

The bill:

  • allows parties to choose dispute resolution processes;
  • Removes the unilateral power of the employer to determine essential services and change the sick leave regime; and
  • Repeals amendments made to recourse processes that had never been implemented.

In labour relations, good-faith negotiations and healthy relations between parties are essential. When the current government came to power, every collective agreement was expired. By working co-operatively and negotiating in good faith, the government reached agreements with over 99% of unionized public servants. It’s worth noting that Bill C-62 is based on the principle of fundamental equality, as it re-establishes negotiating conditions protected by the Charter’s freedom of association.

Accordingly, Bill C-62 would restore a negotiating framework in which the relationship between the employer and its employees is rooted in equality. In addition, this framework allows for both the employer and the unions to make important contributions to ensuring workers are treated fairly, work in safe and healthy environments, are paid decent wages and, above all, can deliver high-quality services to Canadians. That is why I support this legislation and encourage my colleagues to do the same.


Opposition

Last week, the Honourable Jody Wilson-Raybould, Minister of Justice, appeared before the Senate Question Period. The Senate Conservative Caucus took this opportunity to raise critical questions about the impending legalization of marijuana, set for October 17.

Last month, the government announced the approval of the first (and only) drug screening device for law enforcement.

Many of the largest police forces in Canada have not ordered this device due to concerns over its accuracy in the Canadian cold winter temperature, its high number of false readings, and its cost of about $6,000 per device. There are legitimate worries that the inaccuracy of this device could lead to the dismissal of charges at a high cost to Canadian taxpayers.

Last spring, Conservative senators examined the government’s proposed marijuana legislation (Bill C-45), raising serious concerns about the implementation process. Committee reports and amendments were brought forward, most of which were dismissed by the government, as the Liberals were determined to meet their legalization deadline rather than address the multiple concerns and work towards passing better legislation.

The government is simply not ready for this major change in Canadian society. Ensuring that police officers have the proper tools prior to the legalization of marijuana should have been one of the government’s first priorities.  It is disappointing that our citizens’ health and safety was not placed at the forefront of the government’s marijuana legalization rollout.


Independent Senate Liberals

Last week we paid tribute to our friend and colleague, Senator Art Eggleton, who retired after more than 13 years in the Senate.

His time here marked just one more chapter in his life’s vocation in public service. He served 22 years on Toronto City Council, eleven of them as the city’s longest-serving mayor. He later made his way to the House of Commons, where he served for eleven years as the member for York Centre, with nine years as a member of cabinet.

He arrived in the Senate in 2005 and quickly set to work. He has been a dedicated member of many committees, but none are more associated with Art Eggleton than the Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology, where he has been a long-time member and dutiful chair.

Over the years, he has spearheaded some of the Senate’s most impactful committee reports, and demonstrated the outstanding policy contributions that senators can make here in this chamber. There has been the comprehensive In from the Margins, about cities, housing and homelessness, and The Shame is Ours, the recent report on forced adoptions.

Senator Eggleton has also been a driving force in the success of our Open Caucus, serving as its chair and co-chair, and bringing others to the table to create a partnership that will endure long after his departure.

We wish him the very best for his life’s next chapter. His outstanding contributions in the Senate will certainly be missed.


Independent Senators Group

This week the Senate began its study of Bill C-59, An Act respecting national security matters. It is a complex bill, representing an overhaul of the legal framework governing our national security infrastructure.

Bill C-59 addresses three problems: the changing nature of the threats to our national security; the lack of system-wide review and accountability of our security and intelligence agencies; and the need to ensure that the powers granted to our agencies rest on a solid legal and constitutional footing.

The bill responds to these problems by providing our agencies with clear mandates and well-defined powers. It also establishes a rigorous system-wide structure of oversight and review over their activities, bringing us into the 21st century and aligning us with the best practices of our democratic allies.

The bill was the product of extensive consultation, and careful study in the House of Commons. Now that it is before the Senate, it will benefit from further critical review to ensure that it achieves its objectives and respects our fundamental constitutional values.  That is the added value that the Senate brings to the legislative process, and I expect that my colleagues will approach their study of this bill in a serious, principled, and open-minded manner.

Bill C-59 represents a major step forward in transparency and democratic accountability, one which will improve the operational effectiveness of our intelligence and security agencies while respecting the constitutional rights and freedoms of Canadians. I am pleased to be the Senate sponsor of this bill.