Cabinet will table by June its plan to permit the RCMP to unionize. The initiative comes more than two years after the Supreme Court struck down a Mountie union ban as unconstitutional.
“The President of the Treasury Board and Minister of Public Safety are committed to responding to Senate recommendations as soon as possible in order to provide clarity to RCMP members and reservists,” cabinet wrote in a tabling yesterday in the Senate. “It is anticipated the proposed response to the Senate will be tabled by the spring of 2017.”
The Supreme Court on January 16, 2015 fixed a one-year deadline to have Parliament pass an RCMP union bill, then extended the deadline to May 17, 2016 following election of the 42nd Parliament. The bill is currently awaiting reintroduction in the Commons after senators amended its original terms.
“It is in the Minister’s court,” Senator Larry Campbell (Independent-B.C.) said in an earlier interview. “We acted on it, and then they missed two deadlines. I have no idea what they are doing.”
“How long does it take to review this?” said Campbell; “We’re going on a year since the amendments passed. If one of their bills came back and we held it for a year, they would be screaming their heads off.”
MPs in 2016 passed the original Bill C-7 An Act To Amend The Public Service Labour Relations Act that permits Mounties to negotiate pay and benefits. The bill contained numerous exemptions to collective bargaining, including issues over staffing and equipment, demotions, appointments, “law enforcement techniques” and grievances over misconduct.
Cabinet at the time said some bill must pass quickly. “Delaying the passage of this legislation is problematic,” Liberal MP Joyce Murray (Vancouver Quadra), parliamentary secretary for the Treasury Board, told the Commons in 2016.
“Members could be represented by multiple bargaining agents, making it difficult for the RCMP to maintain a cohesive national approach to labour relations,” said Murray. “That is especially worrisome given the nature and function of our national police force.”
“Think of a time when the RCMP might be called in to address a situation of disorder that has to do with a strike and collective bargaining,” said Murray. “How would its members respond if it were members of the same union that was on strike?”
Senators subsequently amended the Commons bill, stripping away most exemptions to collective bargaining. Cabinet had opposed the amendments.