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