Evidence of meeting #70 for Finance in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site.) The winning word was clauses.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Gordon Boissonneault  Senior Advisor, Economic Analysis and Forecasting Division, Demand and Labour Analysis, Economic and Fiscal Policy Branch, Department of Finance
  • Sue Foster  Acting Director General, Policy, Appeals and Quality, Service Canada
  • Margaret Strysio  Director, Strategic Planning and Reporting, Parks Canada Agency
  • Stephen Bolton  Director, Border Law Enforcement Strategies Division, Public Safety Canada
  • Michael Zigayer  Senior Counsel, Criminal Law Policy Section, Department of Justice
  • Garry Jay  Chief Superintendent, Acting Director General, HR Workforce Programs and Services, Royal Canadian Mounted Police
  • Jeff Hutcheson  Director, HQ Programs and Financial Advisory Services, Coporate Management and Comptrollership, Royal Canadian Mounted Police
  • Darryl Hirsch  Senior Policy Analyst, Intelligence Policy and Coordination, Department of Public Safety
  • Ian Wright  Executive Advisor, Financial Markets Division, Financial Sector Policy Branch, Department of Finance
  • Nigel Harrison  Manager, Legislative and Parliamentary Affairs, Department of Fisheries and Oceans
  • David Lee  Director, Office of Legislative and Regulatory Modernization, Policy, Planning and International Affairs Directorate, Health Products and Food Branch, Department of Health
  • Anthony Giles  Director General, Strategic Policy, Analysis and Workplace Information Directorate, Department of Human Resources and Skills Development
  • Bruno Rodrigue  Chief, Income Security, Federal-Provincial Relations and Social Policy Branch, Department of Finance
  • Gerard Peets  Senior Director, Strategy and Planning Directorate, Department of Industry
  • Suzanne Brisebois  Director General, Policy and Operations, Parole Board of Canada, Public Safety Canada
  • Louise Laflamme  Chief, Marine Policy and Regulatory Affairs, Department of Transport
  • Judith Buchanan  Acting Senior Manager, Labour Standards Operations, Human Resources and Skills Development Canada
  • Mark Hodgson  Senior Policy Analyst, Labour Markets, Employment and Learning, Department of Finance
  • Stephen Johnson  Director General, Evaluation Directorate, Strategic Policy and Research Branch, Department of Human Resources and Skills Development
  • James McNamee  Deputy Director, Horizontal Immigration Policy Division, Department of Citizenship and Immigration
  • Graham Barr  Director General, Transition Planning and Coordination, Shared Services Canada

6:30 p.m.

Conservative

Randy Hoback Prince Albert, SK

I think I'll leave it there, Chair.

6:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair James Rajotte

Thank you, Mr. Hoback.

We'll go to Mr. Brison, please.

6:30 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Brison Kings—Hants, NS

A case was made quite compellingly by the former Progressive Conservative Minister of Fisheries, Mr. Siddon, that these changes ought not be part of a budget bill.

This committee has not yet heard from witnesses, including those who make their livelihoods in the fishing industry, but a lot of changes were made to the Fisheries Act and governance that simply ought not to be part of this, so we can't blindly support these changes.

6:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair James Rajotte

Thank you, Mr. Brison.

(Clause 411 agreed to on division)

We'll now move to division 19, the Food and Drugs Act.

I have Ms. Nash, please.

6:30 p.m.

NDP

Peggy Nash Parkdale—High Park, ON

Briefly, Mr. Chair, on division 19, these clauses, as we understand them, would grant the Minister of Health the power to exempt products from the regulatory process, and we have concerns about the potential impact of this change. Again, you have to ask why this would be before the finance committee, as opposed to the health committee or some other committee, industry perhaps, but here it is before finance.

We think at a minimum the public should know when there is an exemption and when a product has been exempted by the minister rather than going through the full regulatory process. We're concerned that this is one more example where power is being shifted from a regulatory process with clear rules into the hands of one specific minister who has the power to skirt the rules for commercial interest.

So we will not be supporting this change.

6:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair James Rajotte

Thank you, Ms. Nash.

I have Mr. Van Kesteren, please.

6:30 p.m.

Conservative

Dave Van Kesteren Chatham-Kent—Essex, ON

Thank you, Chair.

With the current system, when Health Canada needs to make a safety decision, it can take months and sometimes even years to implement. These delays limit access to innovation and safe products for Canadians and the targeted amendments will reduce delays and cut red tape. That's the reason the government has deemed this necessary.

I wonder if we could ask some of the officials to comment on that, what they have experienced in the past, and how this will make those necessary changes.

Mr. Lee.

6:35 p.m.

David Lee Director, Office of Legislative and Regulatory Modernization, Policy, Planning and International Affairs Directorate, Health Products and Food Branch, Department of Health

This is a precise characterization. There is no exemption in terms of what we do on the scientific basis. So as we look at things like food additives, important anti-microbials, or on schedule F, the same science is conducted, and then the rule is expressed much more rapidly and efficiently.

6:35 p.m.

Conservative

Dave Van Kesteren Chatham-Kent—Essex, ON

Thank you, Chair.

6:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair James Rajotte

Thank you, Mr. Van Kesteren.

(Clauses 412 to 419 inclusive agreed to on division)

Thank you very much for being with us here tonight.

We'll now go to division 20, amendments to the Government Employees Compensation Act.

I don't see anyone wishing to speak to this.

(Clauses 420 to 426 inclusive agreed to)

We'll move to division 21, International Development Research Centre Act, clauses 427 to 431.

(Clauses 427 to 431 inclusive agreed to on division)

We'll move to the Canada Labour Code, clauses 432 to 440, division 22.

(Clauses 432 to 440 inclusive agreed to)

We'll move to division 23, which is clauses 441 to 444, the Fair Wages and Hours of Labour Act.

I have Mr. Martin.

6:35 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I actually didn't realize that this was coming up at this point of the evening, but I am glad I'm here, because this is one particular clause I was—I don't think shocked is too strong a word—shocked to stumble across as I was going through the 425 pages of Bill C-38.

Actually, this huge transformational change is encapsulated in ten words in Bill C-38. Exactly ten words of a 425-page document say "The Fair Wages and Hours of Labour Act is repealed". That's it. Most of us missed it. I stumbled across it almost by accident, frankly. I'm sure that our researchers saw it, but they may not have realized the significance of this.

For 75 years, the Fair Wages and Hours of Labour Act has taken wages out of competition on federal contracts so that employers and contractors seeking to work for the federal government would win their contracts based on their skill, their productivity, their competitiveness, and their expertise in that area of work, not on their ability to find cheaper and cheaper labour. That was because somebody, in their wisdom, realized that it is really in no one's best interest to drive down the wages of ordinary Canadian workers. They also realized that especially in times of economic downturn, there is always some worker desperate enough to take a buck an hour less to put food on the table of his or her family.

It was wise. It was great wisdom in the 1930s that put this Fair Wages and Hours of Labour Act together, because it created a level playing field for both unionized and non-unionized contractors so that both would have the ability to win government contracts.

The federal government is a large consumer of construction industry services. Many contractors would wish to get into that game and be able to access government contracts.

I just can't understand, frankly, in whose interest it is to drive this down, unless there is a deliberate interest--I don't think it's paranoid to assume--on the part of the government to allow more temporary foreign workers to take more Canadian construction jobs.

Bear with me while I ask our expert witness some questions on this.

As I understand it, the fair wage schedules are set by the Minister of Labour. From time to time they're updated. There's a canvass and a survey of union and non-union sector wages, which are averaged out, sort of, and a prevailing wage in the area is set.

I'm a journeyman carpenter by trade. Let's say that the prevailing rate for carpenters in Winnipeg is $20 an hour. When you're the contractor bidding on a federal government job, you have to put your bid together using that wage schedule, as set by the government. The act also says that you can't work a guy more than 48 hours without paying some overtime. What the act says is 48 hours, not 40.

Without that, you can post a job ad saying “Wanted--Carpenters, $10 per hour”. Nobody will apply. So within ten days you can get temporary foreign workers in, because the rules have just changed on temporary foreign workers.

The Winnipeg International Airport is a classic example. Eighty Lebanese temporary foreign workers came in and built the Winnipeg International Airport. They did the carpentry there, while the Canadian carpenters outside the fence looking in wished that they could get a job.

This will open the floodgates to temporary foreign workers. We should keep in mind that these temporary foreign workers aren't just individual guys sitting in Bangladesh getting foreign newspapers and looking at the want ads. They work for labour brokers. We call them labour pimps, international labour pimps. They have crews of guys they move all over the world.

These Lebanese guys who built the Winnipeg International Airport, their last job was in Latvia. They were in Latvia this week. They're in Winnipeg next week. They'll be in Geneva the week after that. They're moving them around through these labour pimps. It's like trafficking. It's bonded servitude. They owe these labour pimps part of their salary. Now you can pay them 15% less than Canadian wages.

I know my question is a long one, Mr. Chairman, but frankly I'm horrified. This is my industry we're talking about here. It's destabilizing and driving down the wages.

No fair contractor will ever win another job working for the federal government, because the unfair employer is no longer required to pay fair wages. So in the unionized sector, the employer is going to have to go to his guys and say, “You've got to lower your wages, because I can't compete with these guys who are now allowed to pay peanuts or get temporary foreign workers. They're going to eat our lunch.”

Is that completely crazy, or is that pretty much accurate, Mr. Giles?

6:40 p.m.

Anthony Giles Director General, Strategic Policy, Analysis and Workplace Information Directorate, Department of Human Resources and Skills Development

If I understand the question correctly, the link between temporary foreign workers and the Fair Wages and Hours of Labour Act as it is currently administered is simply not fair. There is no link at all. I'm not an expert on the temporary foreign worker program, so I can't comment on that aspect of your question that relates to temporary foreign workers. What I can say is that in the specific case of Manitoba, it already has legislation and regulations that regulate non-residential construction wages in that province. In the particular case—

6:40 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

But not on federal projects, sir.

6:40 p.m.

Director General, Strategic Policy, Analysis and Workplace Information Directorate, Department of Human Resources and Skills Development

Anthony Giles

On all construction projects.

6:40 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

No. I was a union leader in the province of Manitoba. Federal projects are federally regulated. I don't want to interrupt you, but that's just not true.