June 4, 1984

LIB

Eymard G. Corbin (Deputy Speaker and Chair of Committees of the Whole of the House of Commons)

Liberal

Mr. Deputy Speaker:

Shall all orders and items preceding item 106 stand by unanimous consent?

Topic:   PRIVATE MEMBERS' BUSINESS-PUBLIC BILLS
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?

Some Hon. Members:

Agreed.

Topic:   PRIVATE MEMBERS' BUSINESS-PUBLIC BILLS
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AMENDMENT RESPECTING STAFF OF MEMBERS OF THE HOUSE OF COMMONS

LIB

Paul Edmund McRae

Liberal

Mr. Paul E. McRae (Thunder Bay-Atikokan) moved

that Bill C-215, an Act to amend the Public Service Employment Act (staff of Members of the House of Commons), be read the second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Miscellaneous Estimates.

He said: Mr. Speaker, it would be proper for me to indicate that while my name is on the Bill, the work which has been done in putting the Bill together has been done by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for International Trade (Mr. Blaker) who is also the Hon. Member for Lachine. However, as a Parliamentary Secretary I am informed that he cannot be the author of a Bill. Therefore, I will say a few words and will move a motion at the end of my remarks.

I am concerned about the people who work for Members of Parliament. They have given faithful service, are well-acquainted with the operations of Government, have worked long hours, and have gained a great understanding of the various departments and what government is all about. But, for one reason or another, when the Member of Parliament for whom they work ceases to be a Member at the end of a particular term or at any particular time when the Member is defeated or when he decides not to run in the election, they are out of a job. I am told that in every Parliament approximately 100 Members cease to be Members of Parliament for one reason or another. What this Bill says is that after approximately three years of service, these people should have the same priorities as a public servant. I understand, Mr. Speaker, that these priorities, in terms of moving into the civil service, are held by people working in Minister's offices and so on. We feel that those persons who work hard for Members of Parliament should have that same privilege after three years of service. I, therefore, feel this Bill is very important. I understand there is some disposition on all sides to let this legislation go forward. There may be some amendments which will be required but, certainly, we hope that this Bill will be accepted by all Parties.

In view of the fact that I was not the author of the Bill, although I was certainly involved in and very much in favour of it, and in view of the fact that the author of the Bill is the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for International Trade, the Hon. Member for Lachine, I would ask for unanimous agreement of the House to allow the Parliamentary Secretary to speak for the next few minutes in my place so that the balance of my time would be given over to him. I believe that would require unanimous consent, but if that is possible I believe it would give a better understanding of what is in the Bill and would not necessitate the Hon. Member's speaking at a later date. If it is possible, I would yield the floor, as is common in the United States, to the Hon. Member, with unanimous consent.

June 4, 1984

Public Service Employment Act

Topic:   PRIVATE MEMBERS' BUSINESS-PUBLIC BILLS
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT RESPECTING STAFF OF MEMBERS OF THE HOUSE OF COMMONS
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LIB

Eymard G. Corbin (Deputy Speaker and Chair of Committees of the Whole of the House of Commons)

Liberal

Mr. Deputy Speaker:

Order. The House has heard the proposal made by the Hon. Member for Thunder Bay-Atiko-kan (Mr. McRae). The Chair should observe that the Hon. Member is recommending a procedure which is followed in the American Congress. This is the House of Commons. However, by unanimous consent the House is master of its procedure. Does the House agree to allow the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for International Trade (Mr. Blaker) to speak at this time?

Topic:   PRIVATE MEMBERS' BUSINESS-PUBLIC BILLS
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT RESPECTING STAFF OF MEMBERS OF THE HOUSE OF COMMONS
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PC

William Henry (Bill) Domm

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Domm:

Mr. Speaker, I believe it should go on the record that all things which happen in the Congress to the south of us are not always precedents we follow here. However, having said that, I would hope that when we form the next Government, Hon. Members opposite will be as willing to accept that our Parliamentary Secretaries speak in support of their Bills as we are prepared to consider allowing their Parliamentary Secretary to speak on this occasion.

Topic:   PRIVATE MEMBERS' BUSINESS-PUBLIC BILLS
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT RESPECTING STAFF OF MEMBERS OF THE HOUSE OF COMMONS
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LIB

Eymard G. Corbin (Deputy Speaker and Chair of Committees of the Whole of the House of Commons)

Liberal

Mr. Deputy Speaker:

The Chair gathers that there is unanimous consent. Agreed?

Topic:   PRIVATE MEMBERS' BUSINESS-PUBLIC BILLS
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT RESPECTING STAFF OF MEMBERS OF THE HOUSE OF COMMONS
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?

Some Hon. Members:

Agreed.

Topic:   PRIVATE MEMBERS' BUSINESS-PUBLIC BILLS
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT RESPECTING STAFF OF MEMBERS OF THE HOUSE OF COMMONS
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LIB

Roderick Blaker (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for International Trade)

Liberal

Mr. Rod Blaker (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister for International Trade):

Mr. Speaker, I would like to express my gratitude to the Hon. Member for Thunder Bay-Atikokan (Mr. McRae) who has very kindly presented this Bill in his name, because under the procedures of the House of Commons, a Parliamentary Secretary cannot do so. I also wish to extend my thanks to the Hon. Member for Peterborough (Mr. Domm), who has recognized my difficulty in that I could not speak on this Bill without the consent of the House. It is my intention to be very brief and to indicate simply to Hon. Members of Parliament-and I see the Hon. Member from Hastings has just arrived, and I presume he will be speaking on this Bill as well-that this is a relatively simple proposition.

Certain staff members of the House of Commons now have the right in law to be considered-and I say "considered" not "hired"-by the Public Service of Canada in the event they are judged by the Public Service to qualify for a position. It is one of the benefits they might receive. However, if they, for some reason, do not appear to qualify in the eyes of the Public Service of Canada then they would not have an opportunity to be hired for a position. I believe the easiest way to explain this is by referring to the Explanatory Notes in this Bill. I would like to ask Hon. Members to consider the following wording:

The purpose of this Bill is to provide equitable treatment to the staff of Members of the House of Commons-

And I would point out that this refers to all Members of the House of Commons-

-(including the staff of the Speaker of the House of Commons) when their employment is lost as a result of Members ceasing to be Members, by according them the same priority to be appointed to the Public Service that employees in the following offices now enjoy:-

In a moment, Mr. Speaker, I will refer to staff members of Members of Parliament and how they compare to staff members of certain people in our House of Commons who do have

the qualifications, rights and privileges to be considered for employment by the Public Service. I say again "considered". It does not mean a guarantee of employment.

May I draw your attention, Mr. Speaker, and the attention of all Hon. Members now sitting in the House of Commons to a very remarkable situation. The staff members of the Speaker of the House of Commons are not entitled to be considered for employment by the Public Service. I believe it is astounding that people who have given their time and service for three years and more to Members of Parliament or to the Speaker of the House of Commons cannot be considered to have a preferential right of consideration-and I underline the word "consideration"-so that if, as and when a Member of Parliament decides to leave, dies or fails to be re-elected-and that includes the Speaker of this House-they are not entitled to be considered as possible employees of the Public Service.

What we have, however, is a situation in which staff members of the Prime Minister (Mr. Trudeau), the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Mulroney) and, I believe, the Leader of the New Democratic Party (Mr. Broadbent), together with staff members of Cabinet Ministers, if they have completed a term of three years or more, are entitled to be considered, and again I use the word "considered", by the Public Service for purposes of employment. It does not mean that they are given a guarantee to be hired. It simply means that if a position opens up, these people are given preferential consideration within the Public Service.

I believe that each and every one of the Members of the House of Commons who is sitting here today knows that as much as we put our loyalty, our care, our concern and our commitment to the service of Canada, so, too, do our staff. That is what we are talking about. That is all there is to it.

Hon. Members on both sides have no right to be considered as automatic, potential or specialized employees of the Public Service. All I am suggesting is that the men and women who work for us and have done so for a period of at least three years should be given consideration for employment by the Public Service. The proper definition of that expression is that they must first qualify in the view of the Public Service. Second, if they do qualify, they should be given that small extra advantage whereby they might be appointed without competition. It would still remain the right of the Public Service to say, no, we do not need that particular type of qualification, that particular personality, or those particular abilities. However, I believe all sides, whether it be the Official Opposition, the New Democratic Party, or the Liberal Party, ought to recognize the kind of tremendous commitment these people have given to Members of Parliament and to the House of Commons, and we ought to say, yes, it should be possible for them to be considered for employment by the Public Service. That privilege is extended to members of the staff of the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition and the Cabinet Ministers. However, that privilege is not-as an example of what I would regard as governmental idiocy- extended to the staff of the Speaker of the House of Commons, which is a remarkable concept.

June 4, 1984

Simply put, the Bill would allow members of staff who have three years of service to be in a position where, should an opening arise-and I am rather careful about my language in that regard-should an opening arise in the Public Service for which these people would be qualified, as determined and judged by the Public Service itself, they would be permitted to enter the Public Service without benefit of an examination. That is all that is being asked. This is the same consideration given to the staff of the Prime Minister, the Cabinet and the Leader of the Opposition.

Before presenting this Private Members' Bill this afternoon I have had the opportunity of speaking to the Hon. Member for Prince Edward-Hastings (Mr. Ellis) and the Hon. Member for Churchill (Mr. Murphy). I do not know their decision, individually or on behalf of their Parties, but I believe there is a hesitancy on the part of the Government, which I find surprising. I have beside me the Parliamentary Secretary to the President of the Treasury Board (Mr. Foster) and it may be that we will be able to get this Bill through all stages this afternoon if there is all-Party agreement. It may be that we could look to a motion for reference of this Bill to an all-Party committee. However, I hope and think that I have explained decently the kind of moral obligation we owe, not to our personal secretaries and staff, but to all the people who join elected Members to serve us with such loyalty and effort. We should try to give them a chance.

I should explain what the numbers are. They are so pitifully small that I wonder why anyone might object to this Bill. Basically, at every election we lose about 100 Members of Parliament out of 282. That means a staff component of about 300 people. The administration of the House of Commons tells me that we could not reasonably expect to see many more than 100 people who might not find a job again in the House of Commons. Therefore, I think we are looking at anywhere between 35 and 50 staff members of the House of Commons, once every four years, who may not have found a job but who can use their experience for the benefit of Canada in the Public Service. We are talking about piddling numbers of people, but we are also talking about recognizing their loyalty and their commitment, and their continuing ability to serve Canada.

I have asked, Mr. Speaker, that the officers at the Table have the forms ready for putting the Bill through all stages. I do not know the situation on either side of the House, whether this might be acceptable. If that does not work, then possibly we could send the subject matter of the Bill to committee. But again I say, and I think this is perhaps typical of me, that this is not a partisan Bill. This is a Bill to take care of people who have cared for us for many years.

Topic:   PRIVATE MEMBERS' BUSINESS-PUBLIC BILLS
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT RESPECTING STAFF OF MEMBERS OF THE HOUSE OF COMMONS
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PC

John Raymond Ellis

Progressive Conservative

Mr. J. R. Ellis (Prince Edward-Hastings):

Mr. Speaker, the sponsor of this Bill has very clearly and concisely set out exactly what it does. He has given the details, and there is no need for me to repeat them. I want to say that the Committee on Management and Members' Services, of which I am a

Public Service Employment Act

member, has recommended to the Speaker in the past month and a half a number of changes in the status of our staff. Those changes include the subject matter of this Bill. This is another way that some of us felt we might help to promote the subject matter of Bill C-215. That committee is not really a very partisan committee and Members on all sides felt that it was a worth-while topic indeed and something that should be done for our staff.

The House of Commons is created for Members of Parliament. Everything that happens around here, from the service provided by the ladies and gentlemen who take down our every word, to that given by the staff in the restaurants, the bus drivers, elevator operators and messengers, clerks, everything that is done here, is for the benefit of Members of Parliament. Yet I doubt there is a Member in this House who would not concede that without his staff he is not really capable of doing very much on his own. They are the ones that make it work. While some of us might be impresarios or prima donnas, they are the ones who do the daily dog work, put in the long hours for what is really minimal pay by comparison to their counterparts in other parts of the Public Service. They are perhaps not badly paid by comparison to the real world, but given the pay scale in the Public Service, they are not overpaid. What is so very important is that they really do not have much in the way of security. They are personal staff. I happen to have been extremely fortunate in that one member of my staff has been with me since the day I started on the Hill. I shudder to think sometimes how I would run my office without her. I know that many of the suggestions made in the past few months by the committee to the Speaker reflect the gratitude to the staff which I am expressing now.

I suppose it would be too partisan of me to agree that the Hon. Member's figures are almost exactly right, and that truly, come the next election, there may well be 100 less Liberals re-elected and, therefore, 300 members of Liberal staff who are looking for jobs. You will recall those were his numbers, not mine, Mr. Speaker. I only put a lable on them to make it just a little bit more accurate. However, I will not add that connotation to it.

Topic:   PRIVATE MEMBERS' BUSINESS-PUBLIC BILLS
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT RESPECTING STAFF OF MEMBERS OF THE HOUSE OF COMMONS
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LIB

Roderick Blaker (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for International Trade)

Liberal

Mr. Blaker:

A point of order.

Topic:   PRIVATE MEMBERS' BUSINESS-PUBLIC BILLS
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT RESPECTING STAFF OF MEMBERS OF THE HOUSE OF COMMONS
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PC

John Raymond Ellis

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Ellis:

You do not have a point of order, and you know it.

Topic:   PRIVATE MEMBERS' BUSINESS-PUBLIC BILLS
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT RESPECTING STAFF OF MEMBERS OF THE HOUSE OF COMMONS
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LIB

Eymard G. Corbin (Deputy Speaker and Chair of Committees of the Whole of the House of Commons)

Liberal

Mr. Deputy Speaker:

Order, please. The Hon. Parliamentary Secretary on a point of order, I hope.

Topic:   PRIVATE MEMBERS' BUSINESS-PUBLIC BILLS
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT RESPECTING STAFF OF MEMBERS OF THE HOUSE OF COMMONS
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LIB

Roderick Blaker (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for International Trade)

Liberal

Mr. Blaker:

I am not sure if this is acceptable under our rules, but I felt I had been misquoted and I want to explain something. I did not refer to any number of staff who might become unemployed as a result of changes of Liberal Members of Parliament. I indicated quite clearly that in every election the House of Commons has a change of approximately 100 Members. That applies to all sides, not any particular political Party.

June 4, 1984

Public Service Employment Act

Topic:   PRIVATE MEMBERS' BUSINESS-PUBLIC BILLS
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT RESPECTING STAFF OF MEMBERS OF THE HOUSE OF COMMONS
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PC

John Raymond Ellis

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Ellis:

I merely made the clarification, Mr. Speaker. I am sure you heard me clearly. I just clarified where the 100 Members were going to come from in the next election. However, the Hon. Member has researched his Bill reasonably well and I do not think he has anyone specific in mind as to staff members on that side of the House.

Our Party is quite prepared to support this Bill. I have already indicated that this subject matter has been put before the Speaker in the past few months. I see no reason to stand in my place for 10 minutes, as one could, extolling the virtues of the Bill. If the Member can get the support of his Party to put the Bill through this afternoon, we are prepared to support it.

Topic:   PRIVATE MEMBERS' BUSINESS-PUBLIC BILLS
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT RESPECTING STAFF OF MEMBERS OF THE HOUSE OF COMMONS
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NDP

Neil Young (Whip of the N.D.P.)

New Democratic Party

Mr. Neil Young (Beaches):

Mr. Speaker, I have no hesitation at all in indicating to both the Liberals and the Conservatives that I have discussed this question with my Leader. We will look kindly upon hiring their staffs after the next election.

It is true that the staff of Members of Parliament are probably the most exploited group of workers in the country. They work long hours. They bring a lot of energy and dedication to the job. In the main, they are highly non partisan. In fact, it has been said to me many times that when a person works for a Member of Parliament the political affiliation is very rarely a factor on the Hill. Certainly that has been my experience with my staff.

As far as I am concerned, this particular Bill is a bare bones measure to give some protection to people who work for Members of Parliament. As some Members who are present in the House know, I would go much further than this. I would give them the right to organize and form a trade union to give them the kind of protection which every other worker in the country enjoys, and which we deny to the people who work for us. Having said that, I do not want to spend any more time on this. I would be quite prepared to give the unanimous consent of my Party to deal with this Bill this afternoon prior to the adjournment hour.

Topic:   PRIVATE MEMBERS' BUSINESS-PUBLIC BILLS
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT RESPECTING STAFF OF MEMBERS OF THE HOUSE OF COMMONS
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LIB

Jean-Robert Gauthier

Liberal

Mr. Jean-Robert Gauthier (Ottawa-Vanier):

Mr. Speaker, it is with mixed feelings that I rise to discuss Bill C-215. I think the purpose of the Bill is admirable. I would like to join with the people who preceded me in stating that Members of Parliament owe a great deal to their staffs. We should be very concerned and interested in allowing for serious study and consideration of matters such as job security and career opportunities within the Public Service of Canada. However, I do think that the Bill requires some study. I would like to discuss some of the matters at hand rather than just say that I agree with it. I would like to look at the Bill a little more attentively and possibly agree with others that a committee of the House should look at it seriously with a view to recommending certain amendments to the Public Service Employment Act so as to include some of our personnel on the Hill.

Who among us could perform alone all the duties which our constituents and the House of Commons require of Members of Parliament and Senators? I have had the very good fortune

of having excellent staff in the 11 years that I have been here. In many instances they have been the ones who have supplied me with the needed support, information and professional assistance to do a job which is, as all of us know, demanding and sometimes very tiring. We could not do it without the assistance of these dedicated people, both here in Ottawa and in our ridings. The riding assistants are very special to us. They play an essential role for the Members of Parliament in bringing forth for day to day consideration the problems and difficulties which constituents bring to our attention regularly.

Being on the staff of a Member of Parliament is indeed a demanding and time consuming job. In my office my assistants have no time limits. I have seen them work weekends, in the evening, and early in the mornings. There is no doubt in my mind that there is a great case to be made for the eventual possibility of these people finding themselves without a job come an election or another situation where a Member of Parliament resigns or, for health reasons he or she, must withdraw.

I would like now to review the contents of Bill C-215. The Bill proposes to amend the Public Service Employment Act to give the employees in our offices some of the privileges accorded to the staff of Ministers of the Crown. Of course, the Leader of the Official Opposition (Mr. Mulroney) is included in this category. Section 37 states:

(1) A Minister may appoint his Excecutive Assistant and other persons required in his office.

(2) A person who is employed in the office of a Minister ceases to be so employed thirty days after the person holding the position of such Minister ceases to hold that position.

(3) A person who

(a) was an employee immediately before he became employed in the office of a Minister, or

(b) during the time that he was employed in the office of a Minister, qualified for appointment under this Act to the Public Service ...

(4) A person who for at least three years has been employed as Executive Assistant, Special Assistant or Private Secretary to a Minister, or in any of those capacities successively, is entitled, for a period of one year from the day on which he ceases to be so employed, to be appointed without competition and, subject to section 30 and subsection (3) of this section, in priority to all other persons to a position in the Public Service, at a level at least equivalent to the level of private secretary to a deputy head, for which in the opinion of the Commission he is qualified.

I read that in extenso because it is interesting to look at the annual report of the Commission, which was tabled in this House recently to see what has been going on. I looked at the 1982 annual report. I find that no one used this section of the law. In 1983, 13 people exercised their rights and three did not, for a total of 16 who were eligible.

It is also interesting to note that this priority which they have is priority 2 in terms of the Public Service Commission. Those who have been on leave and are returning from a sabbatical or other type of leave have priority 1 under Article 7 of the Employment Act. Priority 2 refers to Ministers' staff. Priority 3 concerns people who have been laid off because of reorganization, privatization or decentralization. This is provided for in Section 29.

June 4, 1984

There is a statutory list of priorities. Of course, there is another list that is called administrative priorities. It deals with the reorganization, privatization, decentralization, and language training courses. It also includes people whose spouses have moved to another city. There may be serious consideration given to transferring the other spouse on a priority basis.

The Bill would give the Public Service Commission a priority list No. 2 for virtually any job. The Commission will be responsible for determining the qualifications that an individual must meet for a job. The aim of the Bill appears to be to provide some form of job security for our employees. I agree with that. I compliment my colleague on what I may call his philantropic objective. I do not say this pejoratively in any sense.

In response to the Member for Prince Edward-Hastings (Mr. Ellis), I would say that if the aim of the Bill is to give some benefits to the staff of Members who cease to be Members or who are defeated in an election, I can assure him that it would benefit those on his side of the aisle more than those on this side, because we intend to make sure in a few weeks from now that some of the benches on the other side are vacated.

Topic:   PRIVATE MEMBERS' BUSINESS-PUBLIC BILLS
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT RESPECTING STAFF OF MEMBERS OF THE HOUSE OF COMMONS
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PC

John Raymond Ellis

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Ellis:

How many weeks?

Topic:   PRIVATE MEMBERS' BUSINESS-PUBLIC BILLS
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT RESPECTING STAFF OF MEMBERS OF THE HOUSE OF COMMONS
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LIB

Jean-Robert Gauthier

Liberal

Mr. Gauthier:

A few weeks.

As I said earlier, the Bill proposes to amend the Public Service Employment Act. Currently, Section 37 of that Act gives priority for employment to the staff of ministers and the Leader of the Opposition. I understand that in the last year three or four people from that office benefited from that section. It also provides for priority in instances where a person was a public servant previously. It also provides priority should someone serve a Minister or one of the other groups for a period of three years or more. The Act specifies that such a priority, however, is only given in the instances of employment as a special assistant, executive assistant or private secretary.

When I first read the Bill which we are discussing today, I thought that it appeared similar to the current Section 37 of the Public Service Employment Act which I have been explaining. I thought it was an expansion of those protections and benefits. Upon closer inspection, however, I feel that the Bill would provide greater protection to our staff than that which is accorded currently to the staff of Ministers and the Leaders of both the Government and the Opposition in the other place and here. There is a fundamental difference. Bill C-215 does not explain how the amendment affects employees whose Member of Parliament may have vacated his seat for any reason. It simply states that, after three years in the employ of a Member of Parliament, Clause 4(1) of amended Section 37 would be triggered and the individual in question would be able to ask for priority consideration from the Commission. This is not actually the case in existing law. The Minister in question whose staff has been with him for three years, would have to be either relieved of his ministerial duties, resign from his duties, or leave the House before the clause in

Public Service Employment Act question would be triggered, and give his former staff the priority listing which was accorded by this statutory clause.

There is one additional problem which I hope the committee will consider when, hopefully, it studies this Bill. It is that the Bill applies only to the House of Commons. Perhaps we would want to extend this privilege to the other place as well where there are also very devoted people who work for Senators and who are, in my view, equally entitled to this kind of consideration if a Senator dies after three years or perhaps removes himself from office.

In closing, I will say that I view this Bill favourably. I think it is a good initiative. I suggest that there are difficulties with the triggering of the priority listing. If the staff of Members of Parliament are to be included, they should be included in the same way as the staff of a Minister, that is, that the staff should be allowed to exercise that priority if a Member leaves this place either of his own volition or as a result of being defeated. I believe that this should also apply to the Senate.

I would like to hear further comments in the committee with respect to the other amendments, which possibly could be made to improve the Bill.

Having said that, I would like to state very firmly that I think the Bill is appropriate and would give our staff more security and well deserved consideration in the near future.

Topic:   PRIVATE MEMBERS' BUSINESS-PUBLIC BILLS
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT RESPECTING STAFF OF MEMBERS OF THE HOUSE OF COMMONS
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June 4, 1984