Restoring Rail Service Act

An Act to provide for the continuation and resumption of rail service operations

This bill was last introduced in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in September 2013.

Sponsor

Lisa Raitt  Conservative

Status

This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment provides for the continuation and resumption of rail service operations and imposes a binding arbitration process to resolve matters remaining in dispute between the parties.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Votes

  • May 29, 2012 Passed That the Bill be now read a third time and do pass.
  • May 29, 2012 Passed That Bill C-39, An Act to provide for the continuation and resumption of rail service operations, be concurred in at report stage.
  • May 29, 2012 Passed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Committee of the Whole.

Restoring Rail Service Act
Government Orders

May 29th, 2012 / 8:45 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Lisa Raitt Halton, ON

Mr. Speaker, it was just north of here, in Bonfield township, where the first spike was driven into our national rail system back in 1880. In the 132 years since, this transcontinental link has become a defining feature of our nation. Indeed, our country's history is linked to our railway system. From the shores of the St. Lawrence River, across the endless expanse of the Canadian Shield and the Prairies, through the majestic Rockies and over the rugged terrain of British Columbia, it has been the ribbon of steel that binds our country together.

Our government understands the historic connection that so many Canadians have to our rail service, but it is not just part of Canadian heritage. Much more than historical significance, Canada's rail system continues to be an integral part of our country's economic, trade and transportation needs.

Restoring Rail Service Act
Government Orders

May 29th, 2012 / 8:45 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Lisa Raitt Halton, ON

Mr. Speaker, Canadians may not even realize just how great the railways impact on the economy. I want members to consider these facts. Canada has the third largest rail network in the world and it handles the fourth largest volume of goods in the world. Two-thirds of Canada's rail traffic moves transborder and overseas trade. In fact, 40% of Canada's exports rely on rail transportation. With no trains running, the implications of this strike are widespread.

Let us take a look at Canadian Pacific Railways book of business.

Transport Canada reported that in 2010 CP Rail handled 74% of all potash, 57% of all wheat, 53% of all coal and 39% of all containers within Canada. In terms of revenue on an annual basis, this represents $5 billion worth of potash, $11.1 billion worth of grain and $5.25 billion worth of coal.

In addition to moving the potash, the wheat and the coal, the bulk commodities, this work stoppage is also impacting the manufacturing sector, the auto industry specifically. Auto parts are the third largest container import good that enters Canada through the west coast ports. This work stoppage is preventing these parts from being shipped to manufacturers here in Ontario.

Along with some members of our caucus, last evening I met with representatives of car manufacturers who told me that without the parts they need, assembly lines will slow down or stop, resulting in lost production and, depending on the duration of the work stoppage, possible layoffs affecting all auto manufacturers.

In regard to container traffic, $200 million of cargo is traded through the port of Vancouver alone every day. That cargo is destined for Canada's economic trading partners and the homes of hard-working Canadian families.

The economic impact stretches even further as Canada's rail companies paid $787 million in fuel last year, property taxes, sales and other forms of taxes in 2010, and over $2.5 billion annually in wages and benefits. That is the money that circulates through the entire Canadian economy. I think members can understand why our government is so concerned about the work stoppage at CP Rail and the fact that activity has been ground to a halt.

I want to be clear. Resorting to a work stoppage is not the norm for labour relations here in Canada. In fact, it is just the opposite. When the labour program is engaged through mediation and conciliation officers, 94% of negotiations and disputes are actually resolved without a work stoppage. We do see this, undoubtedly, as the better option.

When parties choose to resolve their differences, both the employers and the unions carefully consider the importance of maintaining the strength, the viability and the competitiveness of their operations. When parties choose to resolve their differences, they are recognizing that work stoppages and labour instability leads to long-term and generally detrimental impacts on the future of their company, on job prospects for new employees, on the customers they serve and on the national economy. However, that has not happened in this case and we are on day seven of a work stoppage.

There is no denying that negotiated agreements work. As we have always said, the best and the longest lasting solution to any labour dispute is when the parties come to an agreement at the table. However, there are instances when the parties are just too far apart to reach a compromise.

Let us look at the current dispute. In the case before us between CP Rail and the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference, there have been repeated efforts to break the impasse and the parties have tried to reach contracts for all the people who are involved. The TCRC, the teamsters, and the CP Rail representatives actually started negotiating in October and November 2011. The main issues in this round of bargaining for both units are important. They are pensions, health care benefits and working conditions.

However, by mid-February of this year I received notices of dispute from the employer for both units indicating that they needed some labour intervention. We provided the parties with the services of two conciliation officers for both unions' bargaining units. It made sense to have the same conciliation officers for both units so that we could have some consistency in the process.

Unfortunately, reconciliation was not achieved and, quite frankly, things have not progressed toward negotiated agreements. As such, the parties were released from conciliation on May 1.

On May 16, I met with the representatives in Calgary where I proposed a five point plan that would have provided extended mediation services for 120 days to the parties, as well as have a third party expert in pensions at the table, which would have delayed the possibility of a work stoppage. This was in recognition of the difficulties the parties had in terms of negotiations. Unfortunately, the union rejected this offer and the work stoppage began on May 23.

Even after the strike commenced, we provided assistance to the parties every single day.

However, on Sunday, May 27, the mediators tabled draft terms for voluntary arbitration that represented, in their view, a compromise solution to help address the impasse and avoid back-to-work legislation. In very short order, in under an hour, both parties rejected this compromise voluntary arbitration.

As a result, the officials from Labour Canada withdrew their services because, in their opinion, they determined that the positions of both parties were so entrenched that no forward motion was possible.

In situations where no resolution is in sight, where a strike is ongoing and the lives of Canadians and the health of the economy are being affected, the government has no option but to act. Indeed, the government has an obligation to act, which is why our government is introducing Bill C-39. It would end the work stoppage but it would also provide the parties with an interest-based arbitration process to help them resolve their conflict with the help of an arbitrator.

I can assure my hon. colleagues that this was not our first choice. Members on this side of the House do believe in the right to collective bargaining and would much prefer to see labour disputes resolved by the parties involved, as it is done a vast majority of the time. Our government only intervenes in situations where the public interest is seriously threatened, which is the case today.

History will show that, in 1995, the Liberal government at the time was faced with the same economic situation as a result of a rail labour dispute. It was during the debate on the back-to-work legislation in 1995 that the Liberal labour minister, Lucienne Robillard, stated in the House of Commons:

We would be lacking in our duty to the people of Canada if we allowed a work stoppage in the railway sector to threaten the stability of our economy and the jobs of the thousands of workers affected by this dispute.

It is this duty to Canadians and to our economy that I am asking for this House to support Bill C-39, an act to provide for the continuation and resumption of rail service operations. It is because there is so much at stake for individual rail workers, the company, businesses and their employees who depend upon CP's services and, quite frankly, ultimately, the economic recovery itself.

I would ask hon. members to ask their constituents, particularly the businesses in a constituency. I know what they will hear. They will hear that we cannot afford an extended work stoppage in one of Canada's most important transportation systems. The risks to jobs, to corporate profits and Canada's global competitiveness, frankly, are too great. Like other industrialized economies around the world, Canada is coming out of a difficult economic period.

While our government is proud of our record of sheltering Canadians from the worst effects of the downturn and laying the foundation for recovery, we all read the papers every day.

We all know our country is not immune, however, to currents in the world economy, events beyond our borders over which we have no control. We have uncertainty in Europe at the moment, and there very well could be more turbulence in the days and months ahead. Therefore now is not the time to risk our economy, especially considering that we are making steady progress in creating jobs and restoring consumer and investor confidence.

I do want to remind my hon. colleagues that as of April 2012 our unemployment rate has dropped to 7.3%. That is a definite improvement over last year. That is no wonder, because we added 58,000 new full-time jobs last month alone. However, to maintain this progress and to promote economic growth we need to be vigilant. We cannot afford to allow labour disruptions to continue in a major industry so crucial to domestic trade and our international exports. A labour stoppage in this key sector of our economy would be a serious impediment to our recovery and growth, because quite frankly, the domino effect throughout the economy of a prolonged work stoppage at CP Rail could mean major losses at home or abroad.

What needs to be understood is this. There is much more at stake here than issues on a bargaining table. The employees represented by the Teamsters want to be treated fairly and they want our respect for their rights under the Canada Labour Code. Our government clearly understands this. However, Canadians have rights too and Canadians gave us a strong mandate to protect the economy. This strike affects more than CP Rail and its workers. It affects Canadian businesses, Canadian exporters, Canadian farmers, Canadian miners and Canadian ports, and it affects Canadian families. A prolonged strike puts other people's livelihoods at risk. It is those people's interests that we are acting for in proposing this legislation.

In opposing the bill, the opposition is putting its pro-union ideals squarely ahead of two things, common sense and the national economy. Its vision is narrow and it only stands up for special interests. I urge all hon. members to pass this bill as quickly as possible.

Restoring Rail Service Act
Government Orders

May 29th, 2012 / 9 p.m.
See context

NDP

Alexandre Boulerice Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Madam Speaker, I am going to take this brief opportunity to respond to the speech made by the Minister of Labour, who praised the values of the railways in Canada and told us just how important they are, how wonderful they are, how great they are, and how much they are loved.

In the NDP, the official opposition, we also love the railways, but we would like the workers who make them run and keep the freight trains rolling to be treated with a little more respect.

The first thing that comes to my mind is “Oops, I did it again”. The Conservative government is incapable of restraining itself from interfering in things that are none of its business: labour relations and collective bargaining, which have to be conducted freely. This is the third time. There were Canada Post and Air Canada and its pilots and mechanics, and now the people at Canadian Pacific are paying the price of the Conservatives’ ideology. The question I want to ask the minister is quite simple.

Does this government recognize the right of working people in this country to associate and bargain freely? With its laws forcing workers back to work and imposing terms on them, is this Conservative government in the process of subtly, under the table, changing the rules that govern collective bargaining in Canada?

Essentially, is what you want to do to change the Canada Labour Code to take the right to strike away from working people?

Restoring Rail Service Act
Government Orders

May 29th, 2012 / 9 p.m.
See context

Halton
Ontario

Conservative

Lisa Raitt Minister of Labour

Madam Speaker, I will start from the beginning. Should the government be involved in this matter? The answer is absolutely. We are acting in the best interests of the national economy and the Canadian public. To facetiously say that it is something we did by mistake is completely incorrect and quite insulting, frankly.

We are here on a mandate from the Canadian people to protect the economy. We take it very seriously, and sometimes we have to make tough choices and tough decisions. We have to balance the interests of the whole versus the individual. That is exactly what we are doing in this case.

In terms of changing the Canada Labour Code, there is no desire, no underhanded device in order to do it. We are very clear on 60 years of parliamentary precedence in railway strikes. We are intervening on behalf of the Canadian public and on behalf of the national economy.

Restoring Rail Service Act
Government Orders

May 29th, 2012 / 9:05 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Rodger Cuzner Cape Breton—Canso, NS

Madam Speaker, one thing we all know is that back-to-work legislation really indicates failure, not success.

One thing that has been well publicized in past pieces of legislation that have been tabled by the minister is that they were tabled contrary to advice received by senior department officials, and we know the past legislation tabled has resulted in two charter challenges and two extended court battles.

I ask the minister if in this case there was any such representation from her senior officials. If so, what ramifications of this legislation do we anticipate down the road?

Restoring Rail Service Act
Government Orders

May 29th, 2012 / 9:05 p.m.
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Conservative

Lisa Raitt Halton, ON

Madam Speaker, first of all, I'd like to correct the alleged facts that were brought forward by the member for Cape Breton—Canso. Indeed, what he said with respect to officials providing advice is incorrect. In fact, the advice I am provided by officials is very professional advice based upon the facts on the table, and I act on the advice of the officials in the best capacity I can.

That being said, this is different legislation. It is interest-based arbitration and it is tailored to fit the needs of the parties in this current dispute specifically. It is on the advice of officials, it is from within the discussion of the cabinet and it is very much appropriate for the situation we have right now.

Restoring Rail Service Act
Government Orders

May 29th, 2012 / 9:05 p.m.
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Conservative

Laurie Hawn Edmonton Centre, AB

Madam Speaker, we are here debating the procedural motion, which allows for the quickest possible passage of the restoring rail service act. There are some members who argue we should let this go on and on, who knows for how long, for further bargaining between the two parties, which has already been shown to be not very effective.

Can the Minister of Labour please explain the necessity to expedite the passage of this bill?

Restoring Rail Service Act
Government Orders

May 29th, 2012 / 9:05 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Lisa Raitt Halton, ON

Madam Speaker, indeed, we are on day seven of a work stoppage, of a strike, and it is incredibly important to make sure we get the CP Rail trains moving as quickly as possible for the national economy.

The ministers of industry, natural resources, agriculture and transport have all heard from their stakeholders, and we've heard from our stakeholders here in the country that it is getting very tight concerning the ability to move cargo and to receive cargo in the country, and that is going to have an effect on their business operations and on their employees.

We are on day seven. Traditionally, in the past, we have seen severe economic circumstances develop after seven to nine days, and indeed, I hope we will be able to deal with this matter expeditiously so we do not face that situation.

Restoring Rail Service Act
Government Orders

May 29th, 2012 / 9:05 p.m.
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NDP

Alain Giguère Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Madam Speaker, the problem with this government's special legislation is that Canadian workers invariably end up worse off in terms of salaries, pension funds and working conditions.

How can the Conservatives claim that this legislation is good for Canadians, when the Canadians working for these companies are being systematically penalized? Are they not active participants in the economy too?

Restoring Rail Service Act
Government Orders

May 29th, 2012 / 9:05 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Lisa Raitt Halton, ON

Madam Speaker, indeed they are, and they are an incredibly important part of the economy, and CP Rail is as well, but the point is that these parties had the ability for the last eight to nine months to negotiate their own deals. They also had the ability in the past eight to nine months to recognize, if they were asking for difficult concessions at the table and they were not going to receive them, that they should find their own way to an arbitration process, to a mediation process. We in Labour Canada have offered both an extended mediation process and a conciliation process, and all these things have been rejected by CP Rail and by the workers.

The effect of the strike is ongoing, and the effect of the strike is on the national economy. It is the obligation of the government at this point to take a look at the greater good for the economy and the greater good for the national interest and to act appropriately. In this case, acting appropriately is introducing this legislation and having quick passage.

Restoring Rail Service Act
Government Orders

May 29th, 2012 / 9:05 p.m.
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Liberal

Frank Valeriote Guelph, ON

Madam Speaker, I am really beginning to question the sincerity and genuineness of the intentions of the government with this legislation. I say that for two reasons. One is, if this were such an essential service to Canadians, then the minister would designate rail service as an essential service, by which would accrue a number of rights to the employees.

Number two is that the minister and the government are only emboldening the railway company. The reason I say that is they have had the rail service review since March of last year. They have been comatose on the file and have done nothing about it. That is hurting farmers, and I am convinced that their only interest is supporting the railway companies.

Restoring Rail Service Act
Government Orders

May 29th, 2012 / 9:10 p.m.
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Conservative

Lisa Raitt Halton, ON

Madam Speaker, I will remind the member not to question our sincerity and genuineness because at least we stick to the same script, whereas his party flip-flops all over the place. In 1995, it introduced back-to-work legislation. In 2007, it supported back-to-work legislation in the rail industry. Today, all of a sudden, it has a different beat on it. What gives?

Restoring Rail Service Act
Government Orders

May 29th, 2012 / 9:10 p.m.
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NDP

Alexandre Boulerice Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Madam Speaker, I am very proud to rise in this House this evening to defend the fundamental rights of the workers of this country. Today, those rights are being threatened, I could even say violated, by this bill that, once again, we must now study in this expeditious, but unfortunate way.

At the same time, I rise with very deep concerns about the direction that, day after day, this government is imposing on the House and therefore on our society and its communities. The Conservatives' vision and direction are frankly authoritarian and show a thinly veiled contempt for the workers of this country, for its ordinary men and women who, every morning, get on the bus and, every evening, make their lunches and their children's lunches, so that they can go and earn their living by the sweat of their brows. This government has an outrageous soft spot for those who run the big companies and the big banks in this country.

This government is completely out of touch and unapologetically ideological. It keeps telling us that the invisible hand of the market will solve all of society's problems. According to their ideology, simply encouraging individuals working in isolation to achieve their own ends is the way to achieve the common good. As progressives and social democrats, that is not a vision we share.

Deregulation, privatization and liberalization in other countries have failed miserably. Among the more recent examples is that of the “Celtic tiger”, the European dragon, Ireland, which for years adopted a neo-liberal approach and now lies in ruin while a neighbouring country, Iceland, consulted its citizens and took a different approach that was in the best interest of its people.

Last summer, around this same time, shortly after the historic May 2 election, I had the honour of rising in the House with my new colleagues, particularly our friend and former leader, Jack Layton, to fight for the rights of postal workers. The government conspired to lock them out. They were the very first victims of the government's wrong-headed, backward and anti-worker policies.

I am proud of the fact that I rose in the House back then along with all of my NDP colleagues, because that is the real reason we were elected. We were elected to stand up for people, and that is what we are doing today as New Democrats and progressives in Parliament.

We have to stand up to protect everyone from this right-wing government's attacks. A year later, little has changed in the House. Unfortunately, this government keeps doing the same thing over and over again. If it were as harsh with itself as it is with repeat offenders, we might be headed in a better direction right now.

This is the third time in a year, or the fourth if we count the two different groups of Air Canada employees. That is quite extraordinary. This government has a laissez-faire attitude, but it intervenes directly in a bargaining process and disrupts the existing balance when it comes to negotiating a collective agreement.

It intervenes to tell workers at a private company that they cannot collectively decide on their working conditions or negotiate them. This right is recognized not only under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, but also by the Supreme Court. In 2007, the Supreme Court ruled that collective bargaining is a fundamental aspect of Canadian society. Today this fundamental aspect is being attacked by the Minister of Labour and the Conservative government.

I would like to make an aside, because it is important to put Canada's legal and international obligations into context.

Together with the International Labour Organization, Canada signed Convention 87 on the freedom of association and protection of the right to organize.

This convention recognizes the right to free association and bargaining.

I will cite the opinion of Michael Lynk from Western University in Ontario on this freedom of association. The quote is in English because the original version is in that language.

The right of unionized employees to strike through the peaceful withdrawal of services in order to defend their economic and social interests has been widely accepted as one of the pillars of the freedom to associate, along with the right to organize and the right to collectively bargain. Although the right to strike is not explicitly stated in either Conventions Nos. 87 or 98, the caselaw developed by the Committee on Freedom of Association and the cumulative reports of the Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations have read the right to strike into the meaning of the freedom of association. A leading ILO study that reviewed the jurisprudence of the two Committees has stated that: “the right to strike is a fundamental right of workers and their organizations;” “strike action is a right and not simply a social act;” and “the right to strike is essential to a democratic society.” The Committee on Freedom of Association has ruled that: the right to strike [is] one of the essential means through which workers and their organizations may promote and defend their economic and social interests.

The government's violation of the constitutional right to strike and the freedom of association has already been challenged twice in the case of Canada Post and Air Canada. It is quite likely that this evening's bill will be added to that black list.

Government intervention hurts relations between workers and management. Once again, the government is unwise to meddle in an area that is none of its business. It is interfering in the collective bargaining process, and, it bears repeating, it threatened to pass special legislation not 24 hours into the strike. The government is going to create a situation that will spoil labour relations at Canadian Pacific. This will leave scars. People will no longer be motivated at work. They will be upset and frustrated, and rightly so. That is what this government is about to do. That is unfortunate.

Experts representing managers, workers and unions all agree that interfering in free collective bargaining will worsen the already tense relations between employers and employees.

George Smith—who is now at Queen's University, but who was a negotiator for Air Canada and CP in the past—has pointed out that the government is naive to believe that it can legislate peace in labour relations and is actually making the situation worse. He said:

Naively, the government thought it could legislate certainty and legislate peace, and neither of those things have resulted.

You’re mortgaging the future, and not knowing how much that mortgage is going to cost. In spite of the appearance of labour peace, there is no such thing.

The Conservative government continues to make bad decisions.

Not only does the government propose bad solutions, not only does it act when it should step aside and leave it up to the two parties to negotiate freely, but when the government is asked to act to save jobs, it is asleep at the wheel. The government was incapable of enforcing the Air Canada Public Participation Act on behalf of Aveos employees when 2,400 people were mercilessly laid off, including 1,800 workers in the Montreal region, where I have the honour of representing the residents of Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie.

We have a government that stays sitting on its hands, that does nothing, that does not lift a finger to save people who had good jobs, were well paid, and contributed to the economy. In the case in question, the government did not want to get involved because it stated that it was not its business, that it was a matter for the private companies themselves. Yet, when the private company is Canadian Pacific and it is having problems at the bargaining table, it takes less than 24 hours for the sword of Damocles to be brandished by the Minister of Labour and for that sword to be placed above the heads of Canadian Pacific workers. We in the NDP find that unacceptable because it demonstrates a lack of respect for workers.

One should not be too surprised, however, because this very same government is also directly attacking Canadians' and Quebeckers' pensions. Yet barely a year ago, during the election campaign, the Conservatives never came clean about their intention to increase the eligibility age for old age security.

Yet before an audience of billionaires in Switzerland, the Prime Minister saw fit to announce that he was going to make changes. Now, he never mentioned this to Canadian voters, which very clearly demonstrates a lack of respect and a contempt for Canadians. Moreover, it is an attack that will affect the poorest workers, those of most modest means, which is unacceptable, just as it is unacceptable to attack the employment insurance system. This will hurt temporary workers, contract workers and seasonal workers.

This government does not care about people, does not care about the little guy, does not care about workers; it just wants to force down wages. The Conservatives know one direction and one direction alone when it comes to pensions and wages: down, down, down, except in the case of their corporate fat cat friends.

We need to say it frankly and stop beating around the bush. I believe that this is the first time in history that we have ever had a government that hates the government so much, meaning that the government detests the state that it leads. It does not like the state. It does not like social programs or the redistribution of wealth. And yet, it is running this country, while trying to smash it up and diminish it. It can readily be seen that it is an authoritarian government that feels deep contempt for our parliamentary and democratic institutions. It is a government that prefers intimidation to discussion. It is a bulldozer of a government that gagged parliamentarians more than 20 times in a single year. It is appalling, using closure more than 20 times.

Once again, debate is being limited on a special law that forces a return to work at Canadian Pacific. It is unacceptable. Members want to discuss and exchange ideas and to debate them, but the Conservatives do not like debates.

I am going to refer to two numbers, because I like to use numbers from time to time. The three readings of the current bill have been limited to three and a half hours of debate. For an act that is going to affect 5,000 families in Canada, this is completely unacceptable. Later on, when we meet in committee of the whole, one hour has been scheduled for discussion, when there are 308 members in this House. I took out my calculator and did a little math. If every member in this House were given the opportunity to speak, each would be able to do so for 11.7 seconds. Eleven seconds is what the Conservative government is offering us to discuss this bill in committee of the whole. This is unacceptable and appalling. It is beginning to be rather obscene. It is obscene to see this government destroy the legacy of social programs and institutions that were established with a view to a better society, a more just society in which people live in dignity through good jobs.

Workers are the ones who fought to abolish child labour. Workers fought for a weekend off—except, it would appear, the workers at Canadian Pacific—and for a 40-hour week, instead of having to work 12, 14 or 16 hours a day, as they used to. It is workers who fought for an employment insurance system and for health and safety protections. None of this fell from heaven. People fought for these things. It was not bosses or the government who decided all of a sudden one fine morning that it would be very nice to offer these things.

Let me provide my colleagues with some context by explaining why people at Canada Post, Air Canada and Canadian Pacific are so angry. They certainly have a right to be angry. The 100 most highly paid CEOs in Canada earned $44,000 in the first three days of 2012. They earned $44,000 between January 1st and 3rd. That is the average salary of a Canadian worker, the average annual salary. The CEOs pocketed the same amount in two days. On average, the 100 elite CEOs in Canada make 189 times more than the average Canadian worker.

Take one as an example. The CEO of Canadian Pacific earned $6.5 million in 2011, in one year. That may seem like a lot, but compared with his severance pay, it is peanuts. He quit his job and is no longer the CEO of Canadian Pacific. His severance was $18 million. These are the same people who are targeting the pension plan of 5,000 workers, who had the effrontery to ask them to slash their pension benefits by 40%. That is money they themselves have put aside. Today, management is trying to twist workers' arms and shove unacceptable cuts to their pension scheme down their throats.

Pension plans are under major attack everywhere in Quebec and Canada. We in the NDP are going to stand up and defend workers' pension plans.

I have a hard time understanding how a company that made a profit of $570 million last year, made a profit of $142 million last quarter and for the last four quarters has paid its shareholders a significant dividend is a company in difficulty. How come this company has to launch an attack on the pension plan of 5,000 Canadian families? How did we as a society get to that point today? Why is this Conservative government like the tower of Pisa? It always leans the same way, and never towards Canadian workers. It is unacceptable.

Why is it that Canadian Pacific cannot resolve the problem of worker fatigue? This has been a problem for years. The workers' requests and demands are rather simple. Since they are always on call, since they are always available and their vacation disappears all the time, they simply want to have the assurance that they can be at home with their families for two 48-hour periods per month. And they were told no by a company that made $142 million in profit in the last quarter. Is that the Conservative government's vision for Canada? CEOs get an open bar, while everyone else has to beg for scraps. Is that what the government wants—golden parachutes for bankers and attacks on workers' pensions? These attacks are very real.

A 50-year-old employee with 30 years of service at CP would lose $9,900 a year if management's demands are accepted, and that employee would have no other options. A younger employee, for instance someone who is 30 and has 10 years of seniority with CP, would lose $30,000 a year with the changes that management is demanding. That is unacceptable.

It is completely appalling that in a country as wealthy as Canada, the gap between the rich and the poor is only growing. Even people who are working are forced to seek assistance and turn to food banks, for instance. Since 2008, the number of people in the greater Montreal region who are turning to food banks has increased by nearly 40%.

By introducing special legislation—as in the case of Canada Post, Air Canada and now Canadian Pacific—this government is sending a clear message that employers can attack the working conditions of their employees, negotiate in bad faith—as is the case at Canadian Pacific—and their Conservative bodyguards will come to their rescue whenever they need help. The message being sent to employers is that they no longer have to negotiate. The Conservatives are always there to help them along and impose repressive legislation.

This has resulted in a serious imbalance in our labour relations regime, which is based on free bargaining by management and the union, where one party can exert economic pressure on the other. When a special law is imposed, the balance of free collective bargaining is upset. As we heard earlier, this is vital to our bargaining regime and has resulted in more peaceful labour relations and civility in our society.

Now we have a government that is already moribund, after being in power for just one year, and that has added insult to injury with its Trojan Horse. This mammoth bill amends 69 existing laws and is more than 450 pages long. The government also imposed closure on this bill. And what does the bill contain? It contains even more sustained and vicious attacks against workers, despicable changes to employment insurance and old age security, and the repeal of the Fair Wages and Hours of Labour Act. What we see here is perfectly aligned with the Conservatives' policies.

In closing, when it comes to the challenges of pension plans, the challenges of Canadian Pacific employee fatigue, and the challenges of employment insurance—with the pressure to reduce the salaries of seasonal, temporary, contract and self-employed workers—the picture looks pretty bleak. However, I would like to finish on a more positive note. I would like to finish with a message of hope for Canadian and Quebec workers.

The NDP will always be there standing beside workers and fighting the Conservative government's regressive policies. It will be there proposing real change and an alternative way of doing politics.

Our brand of politics will support the majority of the population, 99% of workers. We just need to be patient a little longer and continue to fight for a better society.

There will be an election, and together we are going to oust this government, which does not care about the concerns of Canadian workers.

Restoring Rail Service Act
Government Orders

May 29th, 2012 / 9:30 p.m.
See context

Lotbinière—Chutes-de-la-Chaudière
Québec

Conservative

Jacques Gourde Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Works and Government Services

Mr. Speaker, I just listened to my colleague's speech.

If we were to follow his logic, there would be no more mail in Canada. In his opinion, that is not important. There would be no more planes in the sky. In his opinion, that is not important. There would be no more trains on Canadian tracks. In his opinion, that is not important either.

If there are no more trains, there will be no more parts for cars and trucks. As a result, sooner or later, there will be no more cars and no more trucks.

I would like my colleague to tell me what his vision is of the Canadian economy given the current circumstances. What is his vision for the Canada of 2012, 2020 and 2030?

I would like the member to give me a coherent response.

Restoring Rail Service Act
Government Orders

May 29th, 2012 / 9:30 p.m.
See context

NDP

Alexandre Boulerice Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be able to answer this question, because the NDP's vision is a long-term vision; it is a vision for the world, a vision for people, a vision for the environment, and one that respects workers. That is our vision; that is what we are proposing.

When my colleague states that Canada Post would no longer exist, I am trying to understand what he means. I think that he means we fought for the workers at Canada Post.

If this government had really wanted the mail to be delivered, it would have done the simple thing that was being asked of it: it would have lifted the lockout. There is nothing complicated about that, in my opinion.