News / Ottawa

Federal government to repeal contentious section of Bill C-59

Treasury Board official says Bill C-59's repeal will be one of the government's first orders of business when Parliament resumes

Scott Brison, president of the Treasury Board, arrives at a cabinet retreat at the Algonquin Resort in St. Andrews, N.B. on Sunday, Jan. 17, 2016.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan

Scott Brison, president of the Treasury Board, arrives at a cabinet retreat at the Algonquin Resort in St. Andrews, N.B. on Sunday, Jan. 17, 2016.

Repealing Conservative legislation on collective bargaining will be one of the Liberal government's "first orders of business," according to a senior Treasury Board official.

The commitment to repeal the section of Bill C-59 is a sign of improved labour relations between the federal government and public sector unions with both sides soon returning to the bargaining table, one union head says.

“This government remains committed to bargaining in good faith with Canada's federal public sector,” Carl Trottier, an associate assistant deputy minister at Treasury Board, said in a Jan. 21 email to public service unions.

“To this end, this government intends to make the repeal of C-59 one of their first orders of business.”

Section 20 of the law, which the then-Conservative government enacted last June, gives the federal government the power to bypass collective bargaining and unilaterally impose a new disability and sick leave regime.

Public sector unions decried the move as unconstitutional and launched a court challenge.

The Liberals had committed to bargaining in good faith with public sector unions, but had not specifically committed to repealing Section 20. 

The government has also said it won’t exercise the powers in the legislation before repealing it.

“It’s a step in a positive direction,” said Debi Daviau, president of the Professional Institute of Public Servants of Canada. “We see a positive change in our ability to do labour relations with this government.

“It’s really important because you can’t negotiate with a pre-supposed notion of where you’re going to end up,” she added.

However, Daviau said she hopes the government will repeal aspects of Bill C-4, another Conservative government bill that changed rules on the right to strike, arbitration access, and rules surrounding essential services.

Public sector unions are also challenging that legislation in court, with the next hearing scheduled for June.

“These other questions under C-4 very much factor in to our ability to get through a fair round of collective bargaining,” Daviau said.

The email from Treasury Board said the government plans to revisit elements of C-4, and “a consultative process with all bargaining agents will be put in place at the earliest opportunity.”

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