Evidence of meeting #63 for Finance in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was changes.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Claude Poirier  President, Professional Serving Canadians Coalition, Canadian Association of Professional Employees
  • Tyler Sommers  Coordinator, Democracy Watch
  • Terrance Oakey  President, Merit Canada
  • Bob Linton  Director, Government and Political Affairs, United Food and Commerical Workers Union

Noon

NDP

Peggy Nash Parkdale—High Park, ON

Do you think that with the changes to EI, and with the increase in temporary foreign workers and the changes to that program, there is a greater likelihood that people may feel more desperate and therefore may accept greater risk in the workplace?

12:05 p.m.

Director, Government and Political Affairs, United Food and Commerical Workers Union

Bob Linton

We see that already. I mean, the seasonal agricultural workers program is not perfect, but it has been a good program and it has worked well for a lot of people. But once the temporary foreign worker program came in, all of a sudden we saw people coming in not under the agricultural workers program, but under the temporary foreign worker program as low skilled, pitting those people who came in under that one program against others.

People became frightened that they might lose their jobs under the seasonal agricultural workers program, and they felt that they had better adhere to whatever their employer wanted. There is greater exploitation. We witness it every year as these workers come into the country.

12:05 p.m.

NDP

Peggy Nash Parkdale—High Park, ON

Do you think there is going to be greater downward pressure on people's wages given the proposed changes to EI and the temporary foreign worker program, which would see workers obliged to accept lower wage rates?

12:05 p.m.

Director, Government and Political Affairs, United Food and Commerical Workers Union

Bob Linton

Oh, absolutely. It's not just wages, though.

It certainly will be wages, and it won't be only for migrant workers coming into the country, but for resident workers in Canada. We see that happening as well.

But it won't be just about wages. It will be about benefits as well and what protections they have on the job.

12:05 p.m.

NDP

Peggy Nash Parkdale—High Park, ON

I only have a couple of minutes and I'd like to ask Mr. Oakey a question.

Mr. Oakey, your organization represents the construction associations. There are eight organizations that you represent, and you've been campaigning on the changes to the labour standards and also on the changes in Bill C-377 to reporting of funds.

I wonder who constitutes your board. Is it the eight associations that you represent? I couldn't find on your website who is on your board of directors.

12:05 p.m.

President, Merit Canada

Terrance Oakey

Our board is made up of 13 contractors from across the country who are all elected by our provincial associations.

12:05 p.m.

NDP

Peggy Nash Parkdale—High Park, ON

They fund the campaigns that you are undertaking for these changes?

12:05 p.m.

President, Merit Canada

Terrance Oakey

We have a funding arrangement for the eight provincial associations. Some are larger than others. There's a much larger open shop construction industry in Alberta and British Columbia and smaller ones in other parts of the country. Of course, Quebec is an open shop as well.

12:05 p.m.

NDP

Peggy Nash Parkdale—High Park, ON

Can I just ask you one quick question? Do you publish the budgets and information on the funds for the advocacy work that you do in support of the construction associations? Is that available online?

12:05 p.m.

President, Merit Canada

Terrance Oakey

Thank you for that question.

I understand what you're getting at, and I'm happy to discuss Bill C-377 here if you wish, or the budget bill.

In terms of Bill C-377, there's a key distinction between any voluntary member organization and a labour organization. It's not a condition to run a business in Canada to be a member of Merit Canada.

12:05 p.m.

NDP

Peggy Nash Parkdale—High Park, ON

I'm just asking if you publish the funds for your advocacy campaigns. Do you publish the budgets? I'll take that as a no, if there's silence.

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair James Rajotte

Do you want to respond to that, Mr. Oakey?

12:05 p.m.

President, Merit Canada

Terrance Oakey

Currently, we do not. As we've always said both publicly and to our members, if the federal government chooses to pass a piece of legislation that would require that we do, we would comply.

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair James Rajotte

Okay.

Thank you.

Ms. McLeod.

May 29th, 2012 / 12:05 p.m.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I'd like to thank the witnesses, and for their patience in particular, as our start was slightly delayed due to the bells.

I would perhaps like to start with Mr. Poirier.

I represent a community that's rural and urban with a lot of mining and forestry, and during the recession there were significant challenges, especially during 2008 and 2009. I saw that the owners of these businesses had to make many difficult decisions regarding viability.

To a greater degree, government also has to look at the long-term future. We look at what's happening in Greece with the deficits there, and around the world if governments don't have their fiscal houses in order.

Given the fact that our public service has increased by one third from 1998 to 2011—and there was certainly a huge increase during the time of the economic action plan—are you saying that it's not appropriate for government to look at the long-term future of the country and that all jobs within government must be protected? Is that what you're saying, that there's no room for government to look at how they are doing things?