The Supreme Court of Canada has adjourned the scheduled November 5 hearing date in Mounted Police Association of Ontario/Association de la Police Montée de l’Ontario and B.C. Mounted Police Professional Association, on their own behalf and on behalf of All Members and Employees of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police v. Attorney General of Canada (34948) to a date to be fixed during the winter session to allow it to be heard together with Robert Meredith et. al. v. Attorney General of Canada (35424). The Meredith case challenges the RCMP wage increase limits imposed as part of the government’s austerity measures through the Expenditure Restraint Act. At issue is whether a right protected under the Charter Freedom of Association has been violated by the unilateral imposition of the wage limits. The Meredith case is one of several challenges to the Expenditure Restraint Act making its way through the courts.
Both Meredith and MPAO/BCMPPA deal with RCMP members’ freedom of association. While the Expenditure Restraint Act is not relevant to the MPAO/BCMPPA appeal, the Supreme Court will be looking at the content and scope of collective bargaining rights for RCMP members as part of each appeal. There was a concern that the two cases were inconsistent. In Meredith, the Federal Court of Appeal observed that the internal staff relations representatives worked collaboratively with other members of the pay council to come up with a non-binding recommendation to make to the Commissioner, ultimately to be passed on to the Treasury Board, but that the staff relations representatives did not negotiate with the Commissioner or Treasury Board, and no agreement on wages or benefits resulted from the process. The Court found that the unilateral change in wage increases imposed by the Expenditure Restraint Act did not undermine this process because the staff relations representatives did not bargain directly with their employer. The Ontario Court of Appeal in MPAO/BCMPPA relied upon the operation of the staff relations representative program to conclude RCMP members did not need the right to bargain collectively.
MPPAC President Rae Banwarie notes the inconsistency: “In Meredith, the government filed evidence making it clear that the Treasury Board unilaterally sets pay and benefits for members of the RCMP, and that it does not bargain, but in MPAO/BCMPPA the government has argued that the staff relations representative program provides a ‘constitutionally adequate’ form of bargaining.”
Laura Young, counsel for the associations in the MPAO/BCMPPA case, commented on the adjournment, saying: “The delay is minor relative to the period this case has been underway, and hearing the appeals back to back will allow the Supreme Court to scrutinize the consistency of the arguments in each case.”
The Mounted Police Professional Association of Canada was established in 2010 by the BCMPPA and is fighting for the right to engage in collective bargaining through an independent association on behalf of RCMP regular and civilian members across Canada. The Association does not seek or support the right to strike. To learn more about our national association, visit www.mppac.ca.
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