Bill C-520: Unfair and Unnecessary  :: Association of Justice Counsel News
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February 25th, 2014
February 25th, 2014
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Bill C-520: Unfair and Unnecessary

C-520 has not only raised the ire of opposition MPs, but legal experts are also expressing concern on how far this bill goes.

As Bill C-520 goes through the legislative process, the Association of Justice Counsel has many concerns, most importantly the impact it might have on some AJC members.

Bill C-520 - An Act Supporting Non-Partisan Agents of Parliament is a private member's bill tabled by Conservative York Centre MP Mark Adler.

C-520 has not only raised the ire of opposition MPs, but legal experts are also expressing concern on how far this bill goes.

The bill, which has reached second reading, will establish a requirement for agents of Parliament and all individuals who apply for a position in the office of an agent of Parliament to make a declaration stating whether, in the 10 years before applying for that position, they occupied specified politically partisan positions.

It could affect approximately 40 AJC members.

For the AJC, C-520 raises three main concerns:

1 - Politicization of the public service

This concern is very real under Bill C-520. With this piece of legislation, the simple act of applying for a position within the office of an agent of Parliament means that an individual will potentially have to disclose his or her political allegiance.  

Furthermore, the fact that the government can include, by way of regulation, any other position to the list found in section 2 of the Act, without any form of parliamentary supervision, is troublesome.  

The Bill could lead to serious misconduct or maneuvering to impose preferred candidates or fire employees who do not adhere to the government's ideology, despite their longstanding objective and neutral conduct in their professional life.

2 - C-520 is redundant and unnecessary

The Public Service Employment Act (PSEA) already governs employees when it comes to their involvement in the political sphere in addition to the Code of Values and Ethics for the Public Sector, departmental codes of conduct and other legislative obligations.

3 - C-520 is a bad news for due process

The AJC represents lawyers and if there is one thing we think is important, it is due process and fairness.
 
With Bill C-520, any member of the House of Commons or the Senate may request an examination into an employee of an agent of Parliament for acting in a 'partisan manner'. Yet, there is no definition of what constitutes acting in a 'partisan manner'.

Furthermore, there are no minimum requirements or a pre-investigation process in place to determine whether a complaint is made in good faith or as a tactic to intimidate an employee.  

This is troublesome, to say the least.

As we look at the track record of the current government vis--vis agents of Parliament, the AJC feels that its concerns - which are shared by many analysts - are real.

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