Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
National Finance

Issue 25 - Evidence


OTTAWA, Wednesday, March 3, 1999

The Standing Senate Committee on National Finance, to which was referred Bill C-43, to establish the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency and to amend and repeal other Acts as a consequence, met this day at 5:30 p.m. to give consideration to the bill.

Senator Terry Stratton (Chairman) in the Chair.

[English]

The Chairman: The witnesses today are from the Customs Excise Union. You may proceed with opening statements, and then we will turn to questions.

Mr. Ronny Moran, National President, Customs Excise Union: Honourable senators, the Customs Excise Union, or CEUDA, is a component of the Public Service Alliance of Canada and represents more than 10,600 employees of Revenue Canada, all of whom will be affected by Bill C-43 and by the government's drive to establish the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency.

Honourable senators, I first want to express our gratitude for your agreeing to hear testimony from CEUDA on Bill C-43. We are pleased to be here this evening and hope that you will find our testimony informative and beneficial. More to the point, we hope that you will agree to make the amendments to Bill C-43 that I shall request.

A copy of our brief, with short summaries explaining our proposed amendments, was provided to the clerk of the committee earlier this week. We hope that you had an opportunity to review it.

I shall now take a few moments to restate our position as it relates to this bill and to highlight the amendments we propose in our brief. Following that, we will be more than pleased to answer questions you may have.

[Translation]

First and foremost, I should like to point out that CEUDA did extensively consult on a majority of Agency Design Teams, including: the Classification Design Team; the Employment Adjustment Design Team; the Employment Equity Design Team; the National Joint Council Design Team; the Recourse Design Team; the Staffing Design Team; and the Training and Development Design Team.

Nevertheless, while we did consult to try and influence the outcome from within, CEUDA's position has always been that our members are opposed to this bill.

This position was shared with the management of Revenue Canada from the outset, remains the same and was announced to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance on November 23, 1998 when I read, and I quote:

The government should act responsibly and withdraw Bill C-43 for its failure to deliver on the vision that gave it birth and in recognition that human resources reform must take place in the whole public service, not just at Revenue Canada.

The government has shown no intention of withdrawing Bill C-43 and we have decided, instead of calling for the bill's withdrawal, to focus our efforts on obtaining four amendments to the proposed legislation. The four amendments we are seeking are: the addition of a new section, section 59.1, to ensure third-party recourse of actions by Agency management is third-party binding arbitration; the deletion of subsection 54(2) to remove the legislative prohibition that will prevent Agency management and bargaining agents from not only negotiating but also consulting on any staffing or classification matter; the addition of a new section, section 51(3), to ensure National Joint Council Directives carry over into the Agency until such time as new agreements are negotiated by Agency management and bargaining agents; and the amendment of section 14 to ensure bargaining agents participation on the Agency Board of Management.

With your indulgence, I will now put forward the rationales for the amendments we are requesting.

[English]

I shall first address the issue of third-party review of staffing actions or decisions by agency managers. Bill C-43 currently is silent on that but it could very easily be addressed by the inclusion of a new clause, clause 59(1) in Bill C-43.

At first light, it must be recognized that the agency will be a government institution and its employees will be public servants. There is presently no legislative provision in Bill C-43 addressing staffing actions or decisions of agency managers to binding third-party review. Furthermore, Bill C-43 gives agency managers full discretion to establish their own recourse processes.

Honourable senators, we urge you to seize the opportunity to reaffirm your commitment to the value of the principles that were so clearly articulated when Parliament enacted the Public Service Employment Act. More importantly, we hope you will also seize the opportunity to restore the comfort level of CEUDA members, the future employees in the agency, by keeping in mind that binding third-party recourse was the approach proposed by the recourse design team.

[Translation]

I shall now address the prohibition on negotiating staffing and classification, found in subsection 54(2) of Bill C-43.

Staffing and classification processes for employers listed under Schedule I, Part I of the Public Service Staff Relations Act are outlined by the dictates of the Public Service Employment Act, which means they are legislated, and therefore not negotiable.

Staffing and classification processes for separate employers listed under Schedule I, Part II of the PSSRA are not governed by the dictates of the PSEA, which means they are not legislated and are therefore negotiable.

Parliament saw fit to provide public servants with certain rights and protections when it enacted the PSEA to govern staffing and classification processes and when it determined that the PSEA would apply to employers listed in Schedule I, Part I of the PSSRA.

Parliament also saw fit, by not legislating staffing and classification processes and applying them to separate employers, to give bargaining agents the right to negotiate protections as they pertain to staffing and classification processes for public servants who work for separate employers listed under Schedule I, Part II of the PSSRA.

Section 54(2) of Bill C-43 will usurp Parliament's intent to give bargaining agents the right to negotiate staffing and classification processes with the Agency-as-separate-employer by imposing a legislated prohibition aimed at preventing negotiation of staffing and classification matters.

If a bargaining agent cannot negotiate any aspect of the staffing and classification processes with a separate employer listed under Schedule I, Part II of the PSSRA, and if the PSEA does not protect public servants working for separate employers listed under Schedule I, Part II of the PSSRA, why would Parliament allow Bill C-43 to impose a prohibition aimed at preventing bargaining agents from negotiating staffing and classification processes with the Agency-as-separate-employer?

Honourable senators, the proposed amendment will not make mandatory the negotiation of one or more aspects of a staffing or classification process. Rather, by removing the specific prohibition, the amendment will allow Agency management and bargaining agents representing Agency employees to pursue such negotiation should they so jointly desire. I must stress that this prohibition of negotiated staffing or classification processes is not contained in the enabling legislation for two other Agencies recently created by this government, namely the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, and the Parks Canada Agency.

We urge you to seize the opportunity to reaffirm your commitment to the value of employment rights, to checks and balances on the arbitrary creation of a staffing process and, as a minimum, to remove the prohibition on negotiating staffing and classification.

[English]

I will move on to National Joint Council directives. As you are likely aware, the National Joint Council is a consultative and deliberative body that brings together the federal government in its role as employer with the various federal public service bargaining agents. The NJC arrives at numerous binding agreements affecting workforce rights and benefits. Unless Bill C-43 is amended, agency employees will not be covered by the protections now enshrined in existing bargaining agent collective agreements with Treasury Board.

NJC directives deal with important matters including, for example, the bilingualism bonus, commuting assistance, safety and health committees, relocation and travel, and so on.

Due to the silence of bill C-43 on this critical matter, provisions of the Financial Administration Act mean that NJC directives will cease to apply to agency employees at the moment the agency becomes operational. Termination of NJC directives was meant to apply to situations where federal public service workers were transferred to the private sector rather than to the para- governmental organization the agency is intended to be.

Senators, we have no doubt agency management will have to have direction on matters covered by NJC directives. The government can ill afford to have a vacuum in terms of matters covered by NJC directives when the agency becomes operational. In an organization with more than 40,000 people, there will need to be direction on questions that will arise pertaining to reimbursement of travel expenses, expenses related to relocation, and matters of safety and health, to name but a few examples.

Failure to carry over the existing NJC directives until such time as new agreements are negotiated and put into place can no doubt lead to considerable bureaucratic chaos. We hope you will agree to ensure the existing directives must apply until new agreements are negotiated and that you will move to amend Bill C-43 accordingly.

[Translation]

I shall now address the issue of bargaining agent representation on the Agency Board of Management, which may very well be ensured by amending section 14 of Bill C-43.

Under section 31(1) of Bill C-43, the Board of Management is responsible for overseeing the organization and administration of the Agency and the management of its resources, services, property, personnel and contracts.

Bill C-43 currently does not provide for employee representation on the Agency's Board of Management, thereby denying the Board direct access to invaluable input from its labour force, and from the experience and expertise of the bargaining agents.

The reassurance of knowing that its concerns could be addressed directly at the highest level of the new Agency would go a long way to enhancing workforce morale.

Having bargaining agent representation on the Agency Board of Management would also be a tangible gesture on the government's part to express its commitment to openness and transparency when dealing with its workforce.

Employee representation on many boards is a growing trend that the government should take notice of, and exploit by taking the opportunity to use this Agency as an example.

Honourable senators, the inclusion of a bargaining agent representative on the Board of Management should not be dismissed as an impulsive request. Rather, it is a dedicated effort on the part of the bargaining agents to work with the government and to help repair the damage done to union-management relations over the Agency's gestation period.

We trust that you will agree and that you will carry this amendment.

[English]

Before closing, I should like to ask for the record if the Chairman would be agreeable to having our brief appended to the minutes of this meeting.

We trust you will recall that these amendments were also proposed on February 18, 1999, by the Union of Taxation Employees and by the Public Institute of the Public Service of Canada. You should note that together, CEUDA, UTE and PIPSC represent in excess of 90 per cent of Revenue Canada's workforce or 40,000 of the 43,000 people affected.

We are not asking for more than what already exists in present legislation. What is more, we sincerely believe our proposed amendments are rooted in fundamental principles of accountability, neutrality, objectivity, impartiality, fairness, and transparency. Again, we hope that you will agree.

Honourable senators, we would be pleased to hear your thoughts on our requests for these amendments and to answer any questions that you may have.

Senator Kinsella: Would you please turn to clause 54(1) of the bill? I should like to have some specificity as to your understanding of these provisions. What is your understanding of a "program governing staffing"?

Mr. Moran: I have the advantage of having with me Wayne Mercer who was our person on the staffing design team. If you do not mind, I will ask him to answer the question.

Mr. Wayne Mercer, National Vice-President, Customs Excise Union: The staffing design team looked at the staffing process used today. We looked at developing a process that would be used in a future model of the agency. The concept used an established set of prequalified pools and the development of a process where people would move away from the hard-core comparative process that we have today. Today, when a job is posted, 25 to 100 candidates apply. The system is one of interviews and testing that eliminate candidates until a final selection group of perhaps five or six people is arrived at.

We looked at designing a pool of candidates who would already be prequalified, who met the basic requirements for the job that was to be filled. That pool would always be in existence on a full-time basis. Thus, at any given point in time, if a vacancy was created or became available, then they would go to the pool. As a result, the staffing time frames would be cut by one-half. All the prescreening and the testing would be already completed.

Senator Kinsella: Would a principle of seniority apply in that model?

Mr. Mercer: In that model, there was no seniority clause.

Senator Kinsella: Is that consistent with the principles in the current collective agreement?

Mr. Mercer: Under the present staffing process, the relative merit model is being used. As a result, you will not have a seniority clause.

Mr. Moran: That flows from the provisions of the employment legislation. It does not flow from collective agreements.

Senator Kinsella: The next subclause states that no collective agreement may deal with matters governed by the staffing program. Is that an unusual provision?

Mr. Mercer: It is unusual when you consider that two other agencies recently formed by the government do not have such a clause. It is rather unique that this bill contains such a clause.

Senator Kinsella: Why do you think such a clause is needed in this privatization exercise when they did not have it in the other ones?

Mr. Mercer: That is the question that we are asking. We could come to some conclusions of our own.

Senator Kinsella: That is what I should like to hear. What is your conclusion?

Mr. Mercer: If you were to look now at the public service and staffing processes, you would see that most of the appeals concerning the staffing process come out of Revenue Canada. Our success rate is quite high.

Senator Kinsella: During the consultative process, was this issue on the table? Was it discussed?

Mr. Mercer: The staffing design team dealt with the process of staffing. Another team dealt with recourse, grievances, appeals and all of that.

The Chairman: You said that you would have a pool of prequalified individuals in order to expedite the filling of a position. If an individual disagreed with the choice of a particular candidate from the pool, would he still have a right of appeal or would he have to accept the decision? I am trying to determine whether or not this would be an ongoing process and not really help solve the problem of those appeals at which you seem to be too successful.

Mr. Mercer: The union brought forward the issue that the candidates had to have more feedback. In most cases, the only time there is any feedback in staffing situations in the federal government today is at the end of the process, once a candidate has been selected. A person who does not make the list of candidates does not find out why until the process has ended.

The staffing design team proposed that there be feedback points in several areas. However, we made no proposal as to how to deal with a candidate who was unsuccessful and who wanted to challenge the decision directly. That was up to the recourse team to design.

The Chairman: There will still be the right of appeal, as you understand it, if someone from this pool does not succeed; is that correct?

Mr. Mercer: We had no direct right of appeal. What we had was feedback, such as why a benchmark that was set was not met.

Senator Tkachuk: You mentioned in the first part of your remarks that you are asking the government to withdraw this bill because it fails to deliver on the vision that gave it birth. Could you tell me what you think that vision was? Did you agree with the original vision? How did they fail?

Mr. Moran: With regard to the original vision, there were a number of elements. The key ones were that it would give control of the taxation policies in this country to the provinces. It was supposed to be a big unity measure in the country. Conveniently enough, the whole unity aspect of it has disappeared from the equation. As you know, the ultimate goal of the agency is to harmonize taxes. Quebec said, "We think that is such a great idea that we have been doing it for the past seven years." Ironically, as I am sure you are aware, what has happened in Quebec is exactly the opposite of what is being attempted through the creation of this agency.

The controlling of tax policies is not part of the legislation whatsoever. Apart from a seat on a board that will direct such things as human resources or how buildings are being contracted for, et cetera, the provinces are receiving no other control in terms of tax policies.

It is clearly only an attempt at a reform of human resources in the public service. As we pointed out before the House of Commons committee, there was no accountability-to-Parliament design team. There was no other design team aimed at responding to the original intent of the agency.

Senator Tkachuk: The original vision was that there would be one happy family of tax collectors and that it would help to unify the country. Was this written down anywhere?

Mr. Moran: Yes, it was. It was in a Revenue Canada document.

Senator Tkachuk: The hope was that all the provinces would come into the picture; is that right?

Mr. Moran: Yes, as well as the municipalities. They are still not closing their minds to any service that they can provide in terms of revenue collection.

Senator Tkachuk: Did they think that they could also collect revenue for other federal government departments?

Mr. Mercer: We do that now.

Senator Tkachuk: The Parks Agency has a collection. Do they have collections or leases? What do they do in Banff or in other national parks? Was it the expectation that this revenue agency would also collect all of their taxes, which would take away the reasons for having the agency in the first place?

Mr. Moran: The answer to that is "yes." However, they can do that within the existing structure. They harmonized three of the Atlantic provinces. We already collect sales taxes now for Ontario. We have been doing it for Manitoba, Quebec and B.C. for a number of years. You do not need to take 43,000 people out of the public service in order to do those kinds of initiatives. That is a proven fact, not just something the union leader is saying.

Senator Tkachuk: Do you think that their intent from the very beginning was not to have one big national tax agency, but perhaps to get around certain collective bargaining aspects or public service legislation that they presently must live with?

Mr. Moran: Their first goal was to reform and achieve the flexibility that they need to run such a large sector of the public service.

Some of the other objectives were also genuine at that point in time. I could not answer that. They could have been. The first goal was definitely to overhaul the human resource regime.

Senator Tkachuk: Is the government doing anything with this bill that they could do without? Does this agency accomplish anything that they could do in the present circumstance without having an agency?

Mr. Moran: As my colleague pointed out, we have a very high success rate in terms of appeals. That means that the Public Service Commission quite often will say that this staffing action was not appropriately carried out. They must then run the competition again. There is a very high level of frustration in terms of human resources trying to staff positions.

I am not even sure exactly what they have in mind. One concern I have with the staffing process is that there are actually three avenues of recourse built into that. If you do not get accepted into the pool, you have recourse. If you do not make what is called the long list, you have recourse. Ultimately, if you do not get the position or are not part of the short list, you have recourse there. I am concerned that we will be dealing with more possibilities of recourse.

We may be representing appeals for people who want to enter a pool that will not be used for the next two years. We are still going to have to invest time, resources and ultimately money into defending those appeals.

At the end of the runway, the goal is that there will be a shorter way of pulling people directly from the list. That is ultimately what they are seeking. I do not see it at this point in time. I see more of a nightmare in terms of recourse than there is now.

Mr. Mercer: I should like to expand on that. You were asking if we can do things without the agency. We already do. We just signed an agreement with the Province of Nova Scotia to handle workman's compensation collections. Summerside Tax Centre did a project a while back where they did all of the tax assessments on real property for the Province of New Brunswick.

In New Brunswick, we collect provincial sales taxes at the border. Prior to harmonization, we had an agreement where our customs inspectors would collect sales taxes on cross-border shopping. The Government of Canada uses different mechanisms so that we can enforce that. Our customs inspectors collect all kinds of taxes on behalf of federal and provincial governments right across this country.

Senator Tkachuk: That is the point I was getting at. It seems to me that they are devising the agency as they did with the Parks Agency and with the Canada Food Inspection Agency. I do not believe all the things that they say they want to do because of this agency. I do not think any of them are meaningful. All of their objectives could be achieved within the present structure. Do you agree?

Mr. Mercer: I would give you examples.

Mr. Moran: Other than the human resource aspect of it where they want to be able to do things such as move people laterally, there is nothing that they cannot do presently.

The Chairman: Are you also collecting fines on behalf of provinces?

Mr. Moran: I am aware of that, yes.

Mr. Mercer: Not that I am directly aware of, no. We collect taxes.

The Chairman: On March 1, 1999, CTV reported an incident where a taxpayer was fined for putting a rock on a beach; he was not supposed to do that. He did not pay the fine and now Revenue Canada has told him he has a problem.

Mr. Mercer: The banks have spoken to us about collecting student loans and things like that. I do not know about that directly, but I know that there are other issues about using the tax side to help in making sure that monies are made available.

Senator Carstairs: Senator Tkachuk asked a question about why we should have the agency at all. One of the strongest rationales for having an agency is not the make up of the agency but having provincial representation on the board of that agency.

As a former provincial politician from whom Revenue Canada collected a great deal of money, I think that it is totally inappropriate that you should have an agency doing that kind of work for the provinces without the provinces having any say in how that agency should be run. I should like to have your comment on that.

Mr. Moran: There is no provision in the bill for tax policies. That is ultimately where the provinces wanted to come in.

As I am sure you are aware, none of the provinces have jumped on side regarding this agency. You would think that to have arrived at the point where it is today, you would need to have one of the key provinces such as Quebec or Ontario or at least B.C. on side.

They had to wheelbarrow money out to the Atlantic provinces and even one of those provinces stood its ground and did not jump on the harmonization bandwagon. We do not see any of the other provinces supporting it publicly in any way, shape or form.

The agency board will be where you control how buildings and human resources are used. That is what we believe the provinces want. The provinces want control of tax policy, not of the use of the building at 123 Slater or any of the other buildings that Revenue Canada occupies.

Senator Carstairs: With the greatest respect, the provinces already control their own tax policies. They set those tax policies; they are not set by the federal government. When the Province of Manitoba decides that the tax rate will be 54 per cent of the federal rate, that is a provincial decision, not a federal decision.

The situation we have here is participation by representatives of the provinces in this agency in the methodology that will be employed by Revenue Canada. We have never had that before. Do you not think that, from a provincial perspective, this might be an attractive proposal?

Mr. Moran: If it is, I should like to see the list of provinces that have said that. I have not seen such a list. I see reluctance when reporters ask provinces whether they support this initiative. A lot of eyebrows have been raised and many people do not understand at this point of time. I am certainly one of them, and I represent over 10,000 people who work there. I also work at Revenue Canada.

Senator Carstairs: The whole impetus for the establishment of such an agency came from the insistence on harmonization with the GST and the PST in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Newfoundland. If that was the genesis of the idea, then obviously there must have been some input at least from some provinces that said, "This will be a good idea."

Mr. Moran: Yes.

Senator Carstairs: Let us go back to some of the specific amendments that you have proposed here. One of them was with respect to clause 54. You seem to object to deleting this, so that the option remains open for negotiation of staffing matters. However, under the Public Service Staff Relations Act you do not have that authority now, do you?

Mr. Moran: No, but by building the prohibition into this piece of legislation, management could return at some point in time and want to negotiate something. Who knows what will happen in the next five or ten years? They could be the ones who want to open this up. We all know how complicated it will be at that point in time, because we will need to amend the legislation.

We fail to understand why the other two pieces of legislation that created the agencies for agriculture and for parks did not have that prohibition built into them.

Mr. Mercer: Also, do not forget that you have a piece of legislation, the Public Service Employment Act, that governs how we work and operate. We do not have that here. The agency is saying that, "We will have policy and guidelines that we will follow." Policy and guidelines are great because they are so flexible that you can change them. How the staffing process will be done in Halifax will be far different from how it is done in Montreal or Toronto or Ottawa, or wherever the case may be. The result is that all of our members would not be treated equally and opportunities would not be fairly distributed to all the employees.

If we have no opportunity to negotiate -- that is, if there is no opportunity to have an operation that works well where both sides know what the rules are and they are consistent -- we will not have a smooth operation.

Senator Carstairs: You said that you are not asking for anything more than what already exists. But this does not already exist. You are asking for an association that does not exist.

Mr. Mercer: It exists already in two other agencies. Why does it exist in them but not in this one?

Senator Carstairs: I do not think it exists in the other agency. It does not have a phrase that limits it.

Mr. Moran: It does not have a phrase that prohibits it forever and a day, either.

Senator Carstairs: Unless I am mistaken, they have not said in those two agreements that they will provide for negotiation of services.

Mr. Moran: No. That is why we say that it does not mean that it will happen. When you prevent it legislatively from happening, then it will never happen. It could be the will of agency management at some point in time to want to sit down with the bargaining agents and negotiate some part of classification or staffing.

Senator Carstairs: My final area of question regards the schedules that you have raised with respect to the Public Service Staff Relations Act. In what way do you think you would be different under this proposed new act than you are at the present time, or would you still have those protections in the Public Service Staff Relations Act?

Mr. Moran: The Public Service Staff Relations Act remains in place. It is with reference to the Public Service Employment Act that there is a great deal of difference.

Senator Carstairs: In other words, you will still be covered.

Mr. Moran: Yes.

Mr. Mercer: However, if you move from one part to another, there are different sets of rules.The concern is that the rules change dramatically. That is the issue. We want to make sure that we protect the rights of our members and give equal opportunity to our members to fulfil their career aspirations inside the agency.

Senator Carstairs: My final question is with respect to clause 59, which states:

Following its third full year of operations and periodically after that, the Agency must have prepared, by a person or body other than the Agency, a director or an employee of the Agency, an assessment of the recourse that the Agency provides or administers in its management of human resources.

My understanding is that that was to provide some comfort and protection for the employees who are moving over. Does it not provide you with that comfort?

Mr. Moran: It certainly brings us partway to that comfort to have a third party audit recourse. However, what happens to the report? To whom do they report? Must they follow through on the recommendations contained in the report? As you are aware, the legislation is silent on all of that. Certainly, we would like to go further in terms of the report. A report is worth the paper it is written on and if there is no follow through with what surfaces, its value is questionable. Yes, it does re-establish the comfort level somewhat to know that somewhere down the road there will be a third party assessment of the recourse mechanisms. Obviously, what happens to the report becomes the question at that point in time.

Mr. Mercer: Also, in today's environment, we have third party recourse. We go to the Public Service Commission, an independent body of Revenue Canada, to appeal a staffing process. We will not have that.

The other point is that the staffing recourse design team, which is made up of senior management officials from the department, including an assistant deputy minister, recommended third party recourse. That was not followed through in the legislation.

Senator Carstairs: I want to congratulate you on participating in the consultation as carefully as you did. I think that that was an important part of the contribution of the employees and they should receive recognition for it.

Senator Tkachuk: My understanding is that the members of the board of directors are not members of the public service of any of the provinces. In fact, they are simply nominees. For example, there will be five NDP nominees from B.C., five Tories from Alberta, five Liberals from Newfoundland, and so on. Order in Council will then pick one and that will be that, correct? In other words, they have a list and it does not stipulate in the act how many are to be nominated. It could be three or ten. I do not know what the list is supposed to be because the act does not specify how many each province should give out. If I have interpreted this incorrectly, please tell me.

The strongest argument for the agency is to have provincial representation. I do not believe that they have provincial representation in the Parks Agency, do they?

Mr. Moran: I do not think so.

Senator Tkachuk: They also work in the jurisdiction of each province. If that were the strongest argument for having an agency, you would think that they would do it for all of the agencies that have some business in each province, such as national parks. They have to look after roads and rights of way and all of that stuff together. We do not have that there, but we seem to have it here. It is like salesmen in each province trying to get more business for the agency. I am not sure why those directors are there. Why do you think the directors are there?

Mr. Mercer: I think you have answered your own question.

Senator Tkachuk: That is good.

Mr. Mercer: They are there to represent the province and the views of the province, and also to bring the views of management back to the province. I cannot speak for the other two agencies.

Senator Tkachuk: We will find out soon, I suppose.

The Chairman: Supposing you achieved some recourse or some basis on which to move off into this agency through these amendments, what are your comments regarding the agency? Having accomplished that, would you be positive about the agency itself, being separate from where you sit now?

Mr. Moran: I am not sure I understand the question. Are you asking whether we would go back and work that much closer with management to get the amendments?

The Chairman: I am asking what would happen if you could take your concerns with bargaining positions and appeals and set them aside through these proposed amendments. My understanding was that the unions essentially support this. Is that correct or not?

Mr. Moran: Well, no, that is not correct. We are seeking these amendments today because we acknowledge that the government officials have it in their heads to do this and it will happen. We are then trying to re-establish the comfort level of the people who will be directly affected by this bill by giving them some built-in safeguards for their future with this new employer.

The people are slowly beginning to understand that they will no longer be working directly for the Treasury Board. They will have a new employer. Many of the staffing rules will change. The recourse rules will change. If we can build in some safeguards, then certainly morale, productivity and everything else that goes along with such a huge work force will be brought to a more respectable level. It makes our working with senior management that much easier if we know we have these built-in safeguards.

The Chairman: If we accomplish that through your amendments, are you in support of this agency? If you obtained your amendments, would you support the bill?

Mr. Moran: We would certainly have to go back and re-think our position because then obviously it would be attractive to be dealing directly with an employer, having those safeguards built in as they have been trying to sell it to us, tailor-made with whatever staffing that we want to work at creating together.

I do not have the mandate to sit before you today and say, "yes, we would," because we have not reached that point yet. As a union, we have our own board of directors and they give me my mandate. Certainly I would have to go back and ask them the question: Now that we have those amendments included, are we supportive of the agency?

As we say in French, do we change our gun from one shoulder to the other? Should we then march to a different drum? It would be a shift in position for us.

The Chairman: I am trying to establish fundamentally that I believe it would resonate with the government that success with your amendments would mean your support for the agency. If you are saying that even if you do obtain your amendments you will not necessarily support the agency, then the government will surely ask why they should give you those amendments if they cannot expect your support? You have to give something back.

Mr. Moran: I want to walk you through the history. First, we have worked with senior management through the design teams through every step of the process, even though we have been very up front about the fact that we do not support the bill. We went to Parliament Hill and stated that we do not support the bill. The bill does not deliver what it was initially designed to deliver. Therefore, we cannot support it.

We are acknowledging that it will go forward anyway, and we are asking for amendments to at least re-establish our comfort level. Would that make our position from day one different at that point in time? As I stated to you, I do not have the mandate to say yes. I could be wrong.

Mr. Mercer: Senators, please understand our reluctance to respond to that question. This is the next phase in the downsizing that we saw a few years back when the government went through a cut-back in a substantial part of the public service. Then they started going into these agencies. Our members are always looking over their shoulders and looking at what happened to DND, to Health Canada, to Transport. They are always asking those questions. They are very cynical.

Senator Tkachuk: They will not give you these amendments or they would have given them already.

Mr. Mercer: They are cynical in deciding if they want to support this. As a tax auditor or tax interpretation officer or tax collector, I will be there tomorrow when the agency goes into position. That is my job. Will I like it? That will depend on how the agency is managed and run. That is a hard question to answer.

The Chairman: Recognizing that all corporations have gone through downsizing and some are continuing to do so, I am sympathetic to the fact the government must do the same thing. I am concerned, as I have expressed, with what is happening with morale within the civil service.

Thank you, gentlemen, for attending tonight. We appreciate your coming.

The committee adjourned.