In June 2008, after consultation with the Pay Council (the vehicle through which the RCMP negotiates pay increases), the Treasury Board approved wage increases and market adjustments for the RCMP for the years 2008-2010. On December 11, 2008, without consulting the Pay Council, the Treasury Board lowered the wage increases for all three years, and cancelled the market adjustments for 2009 and 2010. The subsequent enactment of the Expenditure Restraint Act (ERA) gave statutory effect to the Treasury Board decision made on December 11, 2008. The Applicants, members of the RCMP, claimed that the Treasury Board decision, together with the ERA, amounted to a breach of their freedom of association pursuant to s. 2(d) of the Charter. The Applicants argued that the Treasury Board’s decision was made without any input from RCMP Members or the Pay Council, and that the Treasury Board refused to discuss wages once the decision was announced. The Court held that the Pay Council’s work cannot be considered wholly equivalent to collective bargaining. Nonetheless, it was the only formal means through which Members of the RCMP could collectively pursue goals relating to remuneration with their employer, and it follows that the Pay Council process was important and should be afforded the protection of s. 2(d) of the Charter. The Court held that the unilateral cancellation of a previous agreement constituted substantial interference with s. 2(d) rights. The Treasury Board’s decision and the ERA made it effectively impossible for the Pay Council to make representations on behalf of the members of the RCMP, and have those representations considered in good faith. Despite the ERA’s passage in the context of an economic crisis, the s. 2(d) violation was not justified under s. 1 of the Charter.
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