House of Commons Hansard #9 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was equality.

Topics

Canada Labour Code
Government Orders

March 8th, 1996 / 10 a.m.

Saint-Léonard
Québec

Liberal

Alfonso Gagliano Minister of Labour and Deputy Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

moved that Bill C-3, an act to amend the Canada Labour Code (nuclear undertakings) and to make a related amendment to another act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to rise this morning to present to the House Bill C-3, an act to amend the Canada Labour Code (nuclear undertakings) and to make a related amendment to another act. This bill is aimed at promoting stable and productive labour relations at Canada's nuclear plants.

I first want to point out that this legislative measure does not diminish in any way Canada's responsibility to protect people against radiation from some nuclear plants.

In 1993, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that Part I of the Canada Labour Code applied to some Hydro Ontario employees, namely all those working at nuclear plants, which are subject to section 18 of the Atomic Energy Control Act. This section deals with nuclear plants that are declared to be for the general advantage of Canada.

The Supreme Court made this statement following a 1988 ruling by the Ontario Labour Relations Board that it was not constitutionally qualified to hear an accreditation application from the Society of Ontario Hydro Professional and Administrative Employees.

This decision was appealed to the Ontario courts, then to the Supreme Court of Canada, which ruled that Part I of the Canada Labour Code governing labour relations applied to Hydro Ontario's nuclear plant workers.

Subsequently it was clear that part II and part III of the code, along with the Non-Smokers' Health Act, also applied to these workers. Part II of the code covers occupational safety and health and part III covers labour standards.

In practical terms the results of the decision means that approximately 42 per cent of Ontario Hydro's employees are under the jurisdiction of the Government of Canada and the remainder are subject to the labour laws of Ontario.

It is clear that two separate labour legislations applying to a single group of employees constitutes an exceptional situation. But while being exceptional, this particular and complex situation causes problems to the employees, their union and Hydro Ontario. These problems result from having to work under two similar but slightly different labour systems.

For example, while producing the same effects, occupational health and safety regulations may vary.

There are some differences between federal and provincial technical specifications for the design of scaffolding. However, the cost of replacing scaffolding to meet federal requirements would not provide a corresponding improvement in safety.

A similar situation applies to portable power tools. Under federal legislation, portable power tools must meet standards set by the Canadian Standards Association but Ontario Hydro requires that three-pronged CSA approved plugs on portable power tools be replaced with a twist lock plug. Replacing all plugs and outlets or seeking the approval of the Canadian Standards Association for the twist lock plug would result in substantial costs with no corresponding improvement in safety.

These few examples go to show that split jurisdictions are inefficient, entail costs to companies and governments and do not produce any real benefit. After consideration, Ontario Hydro concluded that workers are provided the same protection under

provincial and federal laws, even if the means prescribed to ensure this protection may differ.

However, these differences add to costs but the employees' safety is not enhanced in any way as a result.

Regarding collective bargaining, the company and unions must contend with two conciliation processes in the negotiation of collective agreements. Ontario Hydro and the unions have a longstanding collective bargaining relationship under the provincial regime going back 50 years.

Because of these concerns, early in 1994 federal and provincial government officials began to discuss the complicated issue of how to apply provincial law to Ontario Hydro. Initially the talks, which also included the company and the union, focused on occupational safety and health law. As talks progressed between my officials and their provincial counterparts, Ontario officials expressed the desire to have all provincial labour laws apply to the province's nuclear facilities.

Federal officials agreed that from a practical standpoint it would be logical to have all provincial labour law apply to Ontario Hydro as well as any ad hoc labour legislation the province might adopt in the future.

Because of the difficulties produced by a split jurisdiction and the type of work done at Ontario Hydro, it is felt that the application of provincial labour legislation would be the best guarantee of efficient and stable labour relations at Ontario Hydro.

The effects of the 1993 Supreme Court ruling did not stop at the province of Ontario, but are also relevant as far as Point LePreau generating station in New Brunswick and Quebec's Gentilly II. Both provincial crowns appear to be in a legislative void for the purposes of labour law, although in practice provincial laws continue to be applied.

In the case of Gentilly II this was confirmed by a 1995 Federal Court of Appeal decision. In its decision the Federal Court invited Parliament to forthwith fill the void.

I must point out that the bill before the House does not affect in any way the Canadian government's responsibility concerning radiation protection in nuclear plants. Today we are setting a legislative framework for the transfer to the provinces-be it Quebec, New Brunswick, Ontario or even Saskatchewan, because federal and provincial apply to mines-of our jurisdiction over labour under the Labour Code and related legislation.

Of course, in Quebec's case, it is quite simple, because we are just not involved over there. Workers there are governed by provincial labour laws. So, immediately after this legislation is passed, we expect Quebec to submit its draft regulations, upon which the federal jurisdiction over labour will be transferred.

It is up to the Atomic Energy Control Board to ensure this kind of protection. The proposed changes will have no impact on the board's mandate in this regard.

For many years, conventional, that is non nuclear, occupational safety and health legislation administered by the provinces have coexisted with the provisions of the Atomic Energy Control Act regarding radiation protection.

This sharing of responsibility between provincial governments and the Atomic Energy Control Board does not pose any problem and never raised any concerns over nuclear safety.

Finally, as regards the other act amended by the bill, hon. members can rest assured that the Ontario legislation governing the use of tobacco in the workplace protects workers as well as the corresponding federal measure does. Consequently, one should not be concerned if we transfer the powers provided in the Non-smokers' Health Act. Provincial legislation is as good as ours.

This is what led us to introduce this bill today.

By simply amending the Canada Labour Code and the Non-Smokers' Health Act, the federal government will provide a mechanism that allows for the application of provincial labour law at nuclear facilities. It is a move that makes much sense in terms of promoting efficient and stable labour relations in these industries.

The bill provides a mechanism to eliminate the split jurisdiction in Ontario and can also be applied in New Brunswick and Quebec, as I stated before. In addition, the mechanism may be applied to the uranium mines in Saskatchewan which are also regulated by the Atomic Energy Control Act.

Let us begin with the split jurisdiction in Ontario. At present, the company is faced with having to comply with two sets of labour legislation, one federal and one provincial. The bill provides a mechanism to correct that. It works this way. First, the company is exempted from having to comply with the Canada Labour Code. At the same time, it is made subject to provincial labour laws which are incorporated by reference into federal regulations.

The mechanism may be triggered by passing regulations in respect of industrial relations, including ad hoc or emergency legislation, occupational safety and health, labour standards or workplace smoking rules and regulations. Once the regulations are in place, provincial labour laws may be applied to nuclear facilities.

I would like to turn now to some specific points regarding the ramifications of the bill. Regarding occupational safety and health, the bill provides that provincial occupational safety and health inspectors may carry out on site inspections. The bill also allows the provincial labour relations board to hear and determine cases in respect of labour relations law applying to these nuclear facilities.

In this case of collective bargaining any bargaining agent that was recognized under part I of the Canada Labour Code remains the bargaining agent under the provision of this bill. This ensures successor rights to the bargaining agent and prohibits other unions from applying to represent that bargaining unit outside of regular procedures.

Any collective agreement concluded under part I of the Canada Labour Code continues in force until the life of the contract expires. This ensures the rights, privileges and duties of both parties to the collective agreement remain intact.

Other provisions in the bill deal with the application of regulations, administration, the penalty for committing an offence, responsibility for prosecutions and the disposition of any fines that might be levied.

As hon. members know, the government pledged to manage its finances efficiently and to ensure that the administrative authority rests with the level of government that is best able to exercise that authority. By passing the amendments before us today, the government will fulfil that commitment.

In conclusion, I want to re-emphasize that these changes do not weaken the authority and the responsibility of the Atomic Energy Control Board in the least, since we would be going back to the structure that existed before the related 1993 Supreme Court decision.

It is because that structure worked very well that I ask hon. members to support Bill C-3. With leave of the House, if there is unanimous consent, we could agree that, instead of referring this bill to the human resources development committee, we could discuss it here in committee of the whole and then proceed immediately with third reading.

Canada Labour Code
Government Orders

10:15 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

There has been a request by the hon. Minister of Labour for unanimous consent that we proceed in all stages through committee of the whole as opposed to the standing committee.

Is there unanimous consent?

Canada Labour Code
Government Orders

10:15 a.m.

Some hon. members

No.

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Government Orders

10:15 a.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin, as tradition dictates, with my congratulations to the new Minister of Labour on the responsibilities conferred upon him by the Prime Minister this past January. I am certain he will be equal to those responsibilities, and I know that his community, both the people of Saint-Léonard and the members of his community of origin, must be extremely proud to see one of their own rise to such heights, knowing the great influence that goes with the position.

Before going to the heart of the subject, I would like to state that I would have liked to see him begin his career as Minister of Labour begin by introducing legislation similar to Quebec's anti-scab legislation. I have no doubt that he will do so in the coming days and months, and this will represent a real test of his influence within Cabinet. I am issuing this friendly challenge to him, in the certainty that he will be capable of honouring that commitment.

The Bloc supports the bill most enthusiastically, for in the end it represents a delegation of powers, as we have said. The thought has crossed our minds that, if the Minister of Labour respects his commitments properly, he could be moved to the intergovernmental relations portfolio and, inspired by the dynamics of Bill C-3, step up the return of powers to the provinces.

Essentially, as the Minister has pointed out, we are remedying a situation in which, if he did not act, there would have been a very real risk of split labour relations jurisdiction in three nuclear facilities, as well as in the Saskatchewan uranium mines.

As the minister has said, the 1993 Supreme Court ruled that labour relations relating to nuclear facilities came under the Canada Labour Code, which went against 50 years of labour relations practice, because the provinces had been the ones to pass regulations, set guidelines and generally oversee labour relations for all that time.

We are delighted that the minister thinks it better we return to the status quo. This approach to intervention leaves the Bloc very comfortable supporting Bill C-3. Could you perhaps check later whether there is consent for the House to go into committee of the whole, and I will even propose it, if I may, because we would like to act quickly.

I should perhaps point out what we are talking about in our attempt to describe the nuclear sector. If the bill is adopted, it would apply to, as we said, Ontario Hydro, Hydro-Québec, New Brunswick Power and Saskatchewan uranium mines. It could apply to some 9,000 workers, including between 6,000 and 8,000 in Ontario.

We can understand the minister's desire to act quickly, because Ontario, with 6,000 employees in the nuclear sector, gets 60 per cent of its hydro electric power from nuclear energy. I understand the minister is also concerned about the vote at Ontario Hydro among the unions represented on the subject of strike mandates. If the situation remains unchanged, if our information is correct, Ontario Hydro and the unions represented could declare a strike as of April 1.

I understand that the minister obviously does not want anyone to be deprived of his right to strike, which is a last resort means, but which, in certain circumstances, is appropriate. But the minister, like us, thinks that strike action should be a matter for provincial labour relations.

We repeat, this practice should be contagious. We are obviously delighted by the minister's decision to retroactively return the field of labour relations in the nuclear sector to the provinces. At the start of the debate, we thought the minister should do so, not by regulating it, but within a legislative context through a delegation of power between legislative bodies or through amicable agreement.

The minister, with the help of his officials, has convinced us that, in this specific case, a number of technical reasons make it impossible; however I do understand-this is a solemn promise on the part of the minister, who is known to be true to his words, and through him of the whole community he represents-that when the Quebec labour minister, the MLA for Matane, sends him the regulatory framework proposed by Quebec, the minister is promising it will be the regulatory framework that will apply to Hydro-Québec and the Gentilly nuclear plant.

Why does Quebec want to have its own regulatory framework? Quite simply, it is very important for us, and I do understand why the minister did not want to venture out in this area, since the regulatory framework will define which Quebec laws will apply to this field of jurisdiction, as Quebec workers will henceforth come under Quebec laws, still of course very specifically within the nuclear industry.

For the information of our listeners, and to make sure it is absolutely clear in the minister's mind, this delegation of authority will result in the Act respecting Labour Standards applying to a number of non unionized workers. You know, Mr. Speaker, how important this act is. My colleague sitting next to me, who is an expert in labour relations, knows very well that, for all non unionized workers, labour standards are the closest thing they have to a collective agreement. They deal with bereavement leave, holidays, monetary as well as normative issues.

We understand that the Essential Services Act would also apply, for the benefit of these workers. I imagine that the minister must be very pleased; now he can begin to reflect on the need, for the federal government, to establish a mechanism similar to what we have in Quebec with the Essential Services Council. The minister will find there a model which has allowed us to strike not a perfect balance, but a rather satisfactory balance in labour relations.

Legislation on essential services and councils authorises the workers to go out on strike in very clearly determined circumstances and always as an ultimate recourse. We know that strikes always penalize, but they can also be necessary in some situations, but users and consumers cannot be left without services we consider to be essential.

Retrocession would also give the CSST authority for all workers concerned, and the minister mentioned that point. I am also thinking, again if our information is accurate, of the construction workers.

This is not the most important bill the minister will introduce in this House, we will not judge him on this bill, but I understand there is a regulatory vacuum in this area which made it imperative for him to correct the situation. We support this bill, again I repeat, because of the retrocession to those provinces that request it.

On that point, in committee of the whole, I will have the opportunity to ask the minister to ensure that the provinces approve the retrocession because, according to the briefing we had, the bill specifies "after consultation with the provinces".

I wonder whether it would not have been more appropriate, from a legislative point of view, to mention agreement with the provinces rather than consultation. The minister, given his political experience, knows that he could find himself in the following situation. As he is well aware, labour relations in Ontario are in turmoil, the premier of that province has a right-wing agenda and has threatened, even started, to dismantle the anti-scab legislation. It is not impossible that the minister would come under pressure from workers who would find it more advantageous to work under the provisions of the Canada Labour Code in some particular situations.

He could even come under pressure from third parties, in particular unions working within a labour confederation, interested in having the Canada Labour Code apply to their workplace.

I know that the minister will not waver and that he will make sure that his contacts, unlike what happened with Bill C-76, are not various intermediary bodies or other groups like unions or employers, although in that case this last example is probably not relevant, and that the delegation of authority will be given with the consent of the provinces.

We are also going to make sure in committee of the whole that this delegation of authority, even if it is through regulation, is total and final. What worries a number of unions, in particular the Syndicat des professionnels d'Hydro-Québec-and we understand

that from a parliamentary point of view-is that a regulation could easily be overridden by another regulation.

We are going to make sure that we do not find ourselves in a situation where the delegation of authority could be temporary, lasting only a few months before being superseded by a new regulation that would undo what the minister is proposing today.

We support the bill, and we will co-operate so that it can be passed as quickly as possible.

However, the minister will allow me to go back to the antiscab legislation and, if he wants, I will readily work very hard with him so that we can have a debate in the House on this subject and I know that the hon. member for Manicouagan has dealt with the matter.

It is inconceivable that some 18 years after Quebec gave itself an antiscab legislation, workers under federal jurisdiction still cannot use it. It is no small matter; it concerns 10 per cent of the labour force, employees who are working in major areas such as the public service, interprovincial transportation, radio and television broadcasting, telecommunications, cable television, banks and nuclear plants.

Need I remind the House that it affects-I mention this because I got the exact numbers yesterday-more than 8,500 employers in 40,000 work locations. Imagine the rejoicing in this Parliament if the minister decided to make history and to fully exert his influence in cabinet. He would give us the pleasure, during the present session, in the context of the work of this House, of providing Canada with provisions that would be included in the labour code and offer an additional guarantee, an additional means.

What is a legislation that sets out guidelines for the right to strike? What is a legislation that prevents the use of scabs? It is an additional way of having civilized labour relations.

I think the hon. member for Manicouagan was extremely eloquent on that. There is a direct correlation between the existence of an antiscab legislation and the recurrence of labour disputes.

If the minister wants, we will both be very relentless on this issue. We will be the "Laurel and Hardy" of labour relations in terms of antiscab legislation and I want to assure him of my whole co-operation on this matter.

For the time being, we support Bill C-3 and may I be allowed to move once again that we sit in committee of the whole in order to speed up things.

Canada Labour Code
Government Orders

10:30 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

If I understood well, the hon. member for Hochelaga-Maisonneuve is asking for unanimous consent?

Canada Labour Code
Government Orders

10:30 a.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC

Yes, Mr. Speaker.

Canada Labour Code
Government Orders

10:30 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

Is there unanimous consent to study the bill in committee of the whole House instead sending it to the standing committee?

Canada Labour Code
Government Orders

10:30 a.m.

Some hon. members

No.

Canada Labour Code
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10:30 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

There is not unanimous consent. Resuming debate with the hon. member for Wetaskiwin.

Canada Labour Code
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10:30 a.m.

Reform

Dale Johnston Wetaskiwin, AB

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate my colleague on his appointment as Minister of Labour.

Bill C-3, an act to amend the Canada Labour Code, is heading in the right direction. Certainly there is a lot of confusion under the circumstances where there is one group of people under two sets of labour legislation, provincial and federal.

With all due respect to the minister and his portfolio, we should be working toward a time when there simply is no federal labour portfolio. It is a duplication. I refer to the budget speech. The Minister of Finance, on page 9, talks about duplication of services and uses as an example meat inspectors, health inspectors and food inspectors.

This carries on into the Department of Labour and we should see a devolution of powers in all areas of labour from federal to provincial in order to downsize government, to get these decisions closer to the people and to make them more effective and more efficient. I am wondering why it would not apply right across the board. Atomic energy facilities are a place to start. I would like to see legislation move along that line so we could have provincial jurisdiction.

Duplicate departments create overbudensome bureaucracy and overlap that nobody needs, especially in such difficult fiscal times. Smaller government is something we should be looking at. I cannot help but reflect on the Government of Alberta in the 1950s and the 1960s under the guidance of Ernest Manning, recently deceased. He gave Albertans only essential government. Waste, inefficiency and duplicity were something he was ever vigilant of. I believe all governments can learn a great deal about effective government from the example set in Alberta during that time.

While the Reform Party generally agrees with the bill as set out by the minister, we will be contemplating amendments later on as the bill goes through this process. We would provide our qualified support at this time.

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10:35 a.m.

NDP

Len Taylor The Battlefords—Meadow Lake, SK

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak today on Bill C-3, an act to amend the Canada Labour Code relating to nuclear undertakings. Like my colleagues on the opposition benches, I

extend my congratulations to the minister on his appointment. He has served this country well in his other capacities in opposition and in government. I look forward to working with him in his capacity as Minister of Labour.

I was appointed by my leader on January 10, 1996 as the New Democratic Party labour critic. I have spent a considerable amount of time over the last few weeks bringing myself up to speed with the various legislation the government may be engaged in, such as the review of the Canada Labour Code, and with various union responses to government undertakings in this regard. I will enjoy the debates with the minister and the Liberal government over the next year relating to human activity and the conditions affecting Canadians in the workplace.

The government and the opposition seem to think this bill is nothing but housekeeping; that it simply transfers from one level of government to another a process that should be simple and easy to understand. My colleagues in the Reform Party want to extend this across the board, beyond the specific legislation. That is another matter entirely.

We have a very specific bill here aimed at the workers of Ontario Hydro. I want to make clear at the outset that I was one of those in the House today denying unanimous consent to speed all aspects of the bill through the House today.

I did that simply because I do not believe that all aspects of this legislation have been heard by members of the House. I think reference to the committee will be useful in that members of the House, particularly members of the opposition, might be able to hear from some of those people who will be affected directly by this legislation to assist them in making up their minds about whether this is the proper thing to do.

I do not feel comfortable as a member of the House having to make decisions affecting people's lives when I have not heard all sides of the story, especially as they would be presented in argument to us as legislators.

Let me put forward a couple of matters that have come to my attention. I will repeat some of the things the minister put on the table because it is important to understand the full context in which the bill is being brought to us.

As indicated, before 1994 workers at nuclear power plants in Canada came under the jurisdiction of provincial labour legislation. In Ontario this would be the Ontario Labour Relations Act.

In 1993 the Society of Ontario Hydro Professional and Administrative Employees applied to the Ontario Labour Relations Board to be certified under the Canada Labour Code; in other words, federal jurisdiction. The application ended up in litigation before the Supreme Court of Canada. In 1994 the supreme court decided the nuclear operations of Ontario Hydro did fall within federal jurisdiction.

A certification was requested by the workers of Ontario Hydro under the Canada Labour Code. The supreme court upheld them in this decision. The decision also applied therefore to nuclear workers in Quebec and New Brunswick, and that is where I believe some of the confusion exists today.

If they were under provincial jurisdiction and the workers wanted to be under federal jurisdiction, and the supreme court agreed with them to be under federal jurisdiction, why is the government today moving with great haste to put them back under provincial jurisdiction?

I want to clarify this contradiction. I cannot in all good conscience stand here and agree with the members of the government and the members of the opposition in allowing this to go through. It is important that the workers, especially those who are part of that application just two years ago, are heard by the members of the House and consulted and perhaps listened to.

The legislation today puts labour relations involving nuclear workers back under the jurisdiction of provincial labour relations instead of under the Canada Labour Code. The government says the legislation is needed because it is too difficult for provincial utilities to manage their labour relations if their workforce is under two different jurisdictions. Non-nuclear hydro employees are still covered by provincial legislation.

Obviously, as the minister indicated, the legislation is intended for the Ontario Hydro workforce but will apply in future after negotiations with Quebec, New Brunswick and even Saskatchewan.

I have been informed that both the Society of Ontario Hydro Professional and Administrative Employees and the power workers union in Ontario are opposed to this legislation. We have not heard that indicated in the debate today.

The workers want to continue to be covered by the Canada Labour Code because in all fairness they are quite worried about how they might be treated by the present Ontario government. The provincial government has already legislated away rights and benefits of public sector employees and has taken provincial labour legislation back 20 years.

The Mike Harris government in Ontario is not a friend to public sector workers. For the federal government to arbitrarily send workers under federal labour legislation under the arm of the Harris government has many of them quite fearful.

As I understand it, the unions say the federal government introduced Bill C-3 without notice or consultation with them. They believe the government is pushing this through because the federal and provincial governments want to strengthen management's hand

when the power workers' contract is about to expire and contract negotiations are about to begin.

The unions believe that this move may have implications on how workers, who may not be pleased with the process and who may be considering strike action, will be dealt with. In other words, the provincial government will have the ability to legislate all striking hydro workers back to work without consideration of the collective bargaining process. This could have severe consequences concerning the hydro union's rights if nuclear operations are sold or transferred as is being considered within the Ontario context.

There is a great deal to be considered under these circumstances. As many members know, the privatization of the system in the province of Ontario is under serious consideration.

It would be improper for the federal government to be seen intervening on behalf of an employer at a sensitive point in the collective bargaining process. I believe that is exactly what is being carried on right now. There is no credible justification for this legislation and certainly no credible justification for the haste with which the legislation is proceeding. Certainly the timing is suspect.

The legislation is being advanced with unseemly haste and without consultation or opportunity for appropriate review, not just by the people who are involved but by the members of this Chamber who have a duty to question every aspect of government legislation before it becomes law. We are not being given, under the process that is being advocated today, the opportunity to do that.

I have not been able to gather a consensus in the industry or among the workers on this issue. Without that consensus, it is the duty and the responsibility of politicians and parliamentarians to try to seek one before legislating rights. In fact, the proposed legislation goes far beyond anything that was previously suggested in discussions that had taken place.

No explanation has been provided why the initiative is proceeding independent of the current review of the Canada Labour Code.

Just a couple of days ago the minister tabled the Sims report that deals extensively with part I of the Canada Labour Code. No doubt there will be significant amendments come forward to the Canada Labour Code. Members will be first of all reviewing, consulting and debating amendments that the government is going to put forward.

I do not feel comfortable without having the benefit of a thorough and broad debate of the Sims report and the amendments that the government will bring forward in making decisions relating to changes in the Canada Labour Code and jurisdiction at this point.

The government should reconsider the haste with which it is moving today. Certainly it should not proceed with this proposed legislation until its details have been carefully considered, fair consultation has been taken and all the affected parties brought in, consulted with, talked to and all of the issues put on the table.

Certainly members of this Parliament owe the nuclear workers in the province of Ontario the benefit of the doubt when they consider the future potential of labour legislation in the province of Ontario.

I did not want to prolong debate but I wanted to make sure that those matters were put on the table today. I appreciate the House's indulgence for that.

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10:45 a.m.

Liberal

Ronald J. Duhamel St. Boniface, MB

Mr. Speaker, I have a very brief question. I appreciate my colleague's points. I wonder whether at the same time he might give me an indication of what his party's position is with respect to the nuclear industry itself. I would be interested in that.

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10:45 a.m.

NDP

Len Taylor The Battlefords—Meadow Lake, SK

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the question. The party's position on nuclear matters is quite clear. As members know, the issue in front of the House is labour legislation. It is people involved in existing industries. They are people who have collective bargaining rights and those rights must be respected. Regardless of the future position of the nuclear industry and whether there are federal funds available to continue subsidizing it, as it has been for years, the workers in the industry deserve the respect and protection that they have been afforded in the past. I think we should keep the issue centred on that for the debate today.

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10:50 a.m.

Hillsborough
P.E.I.

Liberal

George Proud Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Labour

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to take part in the debate this morning dealing with Bill C-3. As the Minister of Labour has explained, Bill C-3 will promote efficient and stable labour relations at Canada's nuclear power stations.

Contrary to comments, consultations did take place with all parties. Furthermore we are not attempting to take away anyone's collective bargaining rights. I would not want to be party to that and I know the minister would not either.

Nuclear power stations are in an unusual situation with respect to federal labour law. It has always been assumed that provincial labour laws apply to nuclear power stations, but as has been said here this morning many times, a 1993 ruling by the Supreme Court of Canada determined that nuclear generating stations at Ontario Hydro were subject to the Canada Labour Code. A split jurisdiction was created at Ontario Hydro whereby the nuclear power workers

are subject to federal labour law but the other power workers in conventional generating plants are subject to provincial labour law.

Passage of this legislation will address that ruling of the Supreme Court of 1993 by resolving the question of a split jurisdiction at Ontario Hydro. Ontario and other provinces with nuclear undertakings will then have a mechanism available permitting the application of provincial labour laws. This action is designed to foster efficient and stable labour relations at nuclear facilities.

With Bill C-3, the government proposes to revert to the situation as it stood before the ruling of the Supreme Court of Canada in 1993.

A corollary of this decision is in keeping with the federal government's commitment to flexible federalism. To that end the legislation before us is consistent with the clarification of roles and responsibilities between the provinces and the federal government.

Since the labour minister has dealt with health and security in his speech, I would like to speak about labour relations and employment standards.

The majority of workers in Canada's labour force, currently around 13 million, are subject to provincial statutes. These statutes govern such activities as local transportation, manufacturing, construction, the forest products industry and provincial and municipal employment. But in those activities which cross provincial or national borders, federal jurisdiction over labour laws prevail as mandated by the Constitution Act and interpreted by the courts.

Those areas of federal private sector jurisdiction include international and interprovincial transportation by land, sea or air, such as railways, airlines, shipping and specific trucking and busing operations. As well, federal jurisdiction applies to communications and broadcasting, including telecommunications, radio and television; also federally chartered banks, longshoring operations, federal crown corporations such as Canada Post and national museums; as well industries declared to be for the general advantage of Canada such as uranium mining and grain handling.

Part I of the Canada Labour Code, which covers employees engaged in these federal industries, also provides the legislative framework for conducting labour relations in the Yukon and the Northwest Territories. The exceptions are employees in territorial governments.

Hon. members will know that Parliament has adopted separate legislation, namely the Public Service Staff Relations Act, to provide for collective bargaining in the public service. In all, some 700,000 employees are subject to part I of the Canada Labour Code and approximately 250,000 federal government employees come under the Public Service Staff Relations Act.

The federal government and each province have collective bargaining legislation. Independent labour relations boards which administer labour laws exist at both the federal and provincial levels. It differs slightly in Quebec, which has a labour court and equivalent administrative mechanisms.

With certain exceptions, both levels of government recognize the right of employees to join trade unions and to bargain collectively. Unions and employers have a duty to bargain in good faith. Collective bargaining agreements generally take the form of legally binding contracts.

These contracts cover such things as hours of work, wages, working conditions and job security.

Normally, those contracts cover one to three years, during which strikes and lockouts are prohibited, in all jurisdictions.

Finally, Canadian labour laws generally outline a range of unfair practices and prohibitions relating to both employers and trade unions. Labour relations boards or the labour court in Quebec hear complaints of unfair labour practices and have broad corrective powers.

I trust that this outline of industrial relations in Canada has been helpful. I believe that some members may be concerned that there are discrepancies between the federal and provincial employment standards. That is not necessarily so. Although not identical, labour standards-

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10:55 a.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member will have the floor immediately following Question Period to complete his speech.

It being 11 a.m. the House will proceed to Statements by Members.