06/04/2013 08:29 EDT | Updated 08/04/2013 05:12 EDT

Bill to boost RCMP commissioner's powers passes Senate

A bill that would give the RCMP enhanced powers to fire members that Commissioner Bob Paulson has referred to as "bad apples" passed third reading Tuesday in the Senate.

The stated goal of the legislation is to restore public confidence in the mounted police, especially in light of complaints and a class-action lawsuit over allegations of widespread sexual harassment in the force.

The bill also creates a new civilian review and complaints commission to revamp the existing commission for public complaints against the RCMP. The new body will be able to initiate investigations on its own, although ultimately the RCMP commissioner will have to approve its conclusions.

On Monday, Paulson addressed a senate committee on sexual harassment in the RCMP and accused many who've complained of harassment of being unhappy about not being promoted.

"Let's face it," Paulson told the committee. "Some people's ambitions exceed their abilities. I can not lead a force that accommodates and seeks to compensate people for those unachieved ambitions."

He added, "I can't continually be defending against outlandish claims that have not been tested or established."

Public Safety Minister Vic Toews said in a statement he was pleased the bill passed, although he pointed out it was opposed by the NDP in the House of Commons.

"This bill will strengthen the review and complaints body for the RCMP, establish a process for handling serious criminal issues involving RCMP officers and streamline the management of RCMP human resources," Toews' statement said.

In question period Tuesday, Toews dismissed concerns that Canada's top Mountie went too far in levelling harsh words at some disgruntled RCMP members.

Liberal MP Judy Sgro said Paulson should offer a public apology for chastising members who have complained of harassment.

When asked if he still had full confidence in Paulson, Toews acknowledged that harassment is a problem at the RCMP, but he sidestepped any concerns about Paulson's comments.

The bill still needs royal assent before it becomes law.