It’s time discussion on Bill 138 went public (Guest commentary)

Consultation with HRPA membership needed
By Ian Turnbull
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 09/27/2011

Much of last winter was spent arguing the merits of Bill 138, a proposed private member’s bill to replace the current legislation governing the Human Resources Professionals Association (HRPA) in Ontario.

In a front-page article on June 20, Canadian HR Reporter’sheadline was: “Decision on Bill 138 postponed.” But that isn’t true. It wasn’t postponed, it died before third reading because the province called an election.

It is time for the discussion on Bill 138 to be open and public. There are some issues here. One is why is HRPA so against the idea of openly asking the membership for its opinion? Another is the detail of the proposed bill itself, a bill that would have given HRPA search and seizure rights not even allowed by our police and security forces.

I am very much against many of the specifics contained within Bill 138, but if a majority of the membership were to have an opportunity to discuss and approve those specifics, then so be it. But that did not happen, and there are no signs that is planned.

There was enough time, apparently, for HRPA to pass it by the Certified General Accountants Association of Canada (CGA-Canada) for comment — as attested to by MPP David Zimmer, who introduced the bill — but apparently not to engage in any communication or consultation with its own membership or chapter leadership. The first notice members received from HRPA was after first reading.

In fact, the bill was heavily opposed by members and non-members alike. Many people signed a petition asking that the bill be stopped. This when, even in March 2011, there were members who had not heard of the proposed bill.

This makes it hard to understand HRPA CEO Bill Greenhalgh’s assertion there was “close to 90 per cent support” from the membership and chapters.

Similarly, Greenhalgh claimed all political parties supported the bill. He must have been watching a different debate from the one I saw when, during second reading, speakers from both the Conservative party and NDP specifically stated they had concerns, but those concerns would be addressed during committee consideration before third reading. Not quite the massive support HRPA is claiming.

And the public committee hearings before third reading were guaranteed to be highly contentious. Maybe that is why the Liberal government chose to let it die on the order paper?

Now, a further 14 weeks have passed since the bill died and we still have seen no evidence HRPA is at all interested in consulting with members or chapter leadership. Greenhalgh is quoted as saying that this time, “We’ve got a lot longer (before a new version is taken to the House). It won’t be as much of a rush.”

I hope the membership demands this time be used wisely. To have an open and detailed review of the contents of the proposed bill — if any MPP can be convinced to champion it again as a private member’s bill — is far more in keeping with membership’s expectations.

HRPA should not attempt to go forward with any similar version of Bill 138 without consultation within the HRPA membership, and preferably with the public as well.

In fact we should have a Royal Commission-style investigation. It should include an open consultation and invite wide participation, chaired by a member who has not been on the board and who was not a leader of the opposition to Bill 138.

Further, HRPA should declare everyone is welcome to express their opinion and participate fully.

Ian Turnbull is former chair of the Canadian Council of Human Resource Associations and former president of the Human Resource Professionals of York Region.

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