House of Commons Hansard #142 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was workers.

Topics

Canada Labour Code
Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

Reform

Dale Johnston Wetaskiwin, AB

Madam Speaker, has my colleague from Kindersley-Lloydminster noted the portion of the bill that allows for the continuation of service in a strike or lockout situation if there is danger to the public health or safety? How would he feel about the inclusion of detrimental effect or hardship to the Canadian economy?

We have had strikes and lockout situations on the west coast port particularly and in the rail transportation industry that would have had a more devastating impact on the Canadian economy if the participants in the work disruption had not been legislated back to work.

Could my colleague speak on the possibility of the inclusion of detrimental effects on the Canadian economy?

Canada Labour Code
Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

Reform

Elwin Hermanson Kindersley—Lloydminster, SK

Madam Speaker, I thank the member for Wetaskiwin for his question. He raises a very good point.

When we talk about emergency back to work legislation or essential services we usually think about health care workers like doctors or the police force. If they remove their services we could have chaos, death or serious injury that is unattended to.

We have never really considered the impact of our labour-management resolution process when it comes to industries at risk. We cannot necessarily categorized it as having an impact on public safety, for instance, or as bringing the country's security into question. That is not the case but it is just as real a problem.

The member raised a very real problem which is why I agree with him. Economic issues should be considered when we are discussing and putting forward this type of legislation, in particular where innocent third parties are affected.

If we had good train and port facilities on the four borders of the country and the west coast were on strike, we could go to Mississippi or Churchill or the east coast. We would have other options and we would not need legislation.

That is not the way it works. Almost all our product goes to the west coast or through the St. Lawrence. The greater amount goes through west coast ports. There is no other way. We need to make more ways and we are in favour of making more ways to get our product to port and to our customers. The infrastructure in place is not adequate to allow competition to have its proper role in the marketing and transportation of our goods.

With that restriction upon our industry it is important that we have a resolution mechanism in place to prevent serious economic injury which can almost reach the intensity of being harmful to public safety. We need that resolution mechanism in place in such serious instances as the shutting down of an entire industry through labour disruption.

Canada Labour Code
Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

Bloc

Francine Lalonde Mercier, QC

Madam Speaker, it is with a feeling of unfinished business that I take part in this debate, at third reading, on a bill that is so important for Canadian workers. It is also a bill that will have an impact on provincial labour codes. The work remains unfinished because of the incredible speed with which the Standing Committee on Human Resource Development conducted its business, even though a parliamentary committee is supposed to be the place where issues are reviewed and discussed thoroughly.

The minister chose to rely on a working group whose decisions, we are told, were put in a bill hastily thrown together. Then, and with practically no changes made, that bill was referred to the human resource development committee. I should also point out that the government bypassed second reading, preferring to send the bill directly to committee, supposedly to provide more flexibility during the debate, something which we would have loved to see, but which definitely did not happen.

I am making these preliminary remarks because it is extremely unfortunate to have missed this opportunity for an in depth review

of the Canada Labour Code. I can only conclude that it is because here, in Parliament, we pass various types of bills.

Some of the bills we pass, such as those dealing with the budget, will never be challenged in any way. They are a means for the government to codify its decisions. However, when a bill is to become the law for parties, to be interpreted, and might be challenged in court, possibly all the way to the Supreme Court, it should be carefully reviewed.

The parties should be given every opportunity to reach an agreement, to discuss and to express their views, something which was not done. I deeply regret that. Be that as it may, I wanted to make these comments for the record. I hope that Quebec will no longer be represented in this House the next time the Canada Labour Code comes under review. My remarks are valid for any opposition party in a similar situation.

Since my time is short, I will move on to the main concerns I have about this bill. This bill will radically change some of the proven mechanisms we have, for instance, the Canada Labour Relations Board will change name and become the Canada Industrial Relations Board. This indicates that the government wants to change the nature of the board, but in what sense is really not clear, since the first thing we are told about this new Canadian board is that it will be representational.

However, right from the beginning, there seemed to be some confusion about the term "representational". An board is representational when its members actually represent a group or an entity that designated delegates to the board. It represents the groups or entities that appoint delegates.

In this case, the board will be made up of representatives of the employers and workers who will be appointed by the minister, after consultation with groups chosen by the minister himself. These members will represent the workers and the employers, but they will also have to please the minister.

To say that such a board will be representational of the workers and employers is a gross overstatement. It could even have serious consequences in a crisis, because the board really has to be above suspicion.

It must be able to arbitrate this country's most important conflicts, those with the heaviest economic and social impact. First and foremost, it must not be constituted on a false premise, and this bill misuses the word "representative".

I personally was extremely astonished, yet pleased, to hear the CLC representative tell us that the CLC had not been in the least in agreement with the so-called representativeness mechanisms. She shared our point of view totally. There are no representativeness mechanisms, yet representativeness is presented as one of the cornerstones of this bill.

This bill is also intended to prevent recurrence of the problems experienced by the board, which had repercussions right up to the Standing Committee on Human Resources Development, and which paralyzed the board for too long. Unfortunately, the clauses in the code would not prevent a crisis like the one experienced by the Canada Labour Relations Board from recurring.

Conflict between the chairperson and the members was what lay behind that dispute, and the contents of the code address only the behaviour of the members, not that of the chair. The minister has not equipped himself with the means to deal with a crisis like the one experienced by the Canada Labour Relations Board in its last two years of life.

This bill, which is intended to settle conflicts, by creating regulations to govern all aspects from applications for accreditation to initial collective agreements and negotiation of collective agreements when a union is already in place, is characterized by major changes to the body of the code itself.

The purpose of these changes was to update the legislation and expand the ability of the Canada Industrial Relations Board to deal with the problems experienced in the labour world today. However, instead of giving the Canada Labour Code this flexibility and giving the board an instrument it could more readily use to help finalize collective agreements under difficult circumstances, we are seeing a tendency to make the rules of the code as they apply to strikes and lockouts more rigid which, in turn-and far be it from me to call them that-could lead to illegal strikes or lockouts, considering the problems with enforcement.

I will mention the new rules very briefly to show to what extent things are changing. And I have not yet discussed essential services. Unions or companies that wish to strike or announce a lockout will have 60 days to seek and exercise a mandate.

If they fail to exercise their mandate within 60 days, they must go back and seek another mandate. It would seem that instead of promoting dispute settlement, this provision is more likely to have the opposite effect.

Unions covered by the Canada Labour Code are often national unions, and it takes time to organize a vote on a strike mandate. They are not really given much time, because although the very fact of organizing a strike vote may speed up the collective bargaining process, enough time should be allowed for the process to run its course.

So, what we see is that, if at the end of the 60 days, the union and the employer were on the verge of resolving the dispute, but needed more time, they would not succeed in doing so. The union, if it needed the employer's approval first, might well refuse to get into such a situation. Instead of continuing the negotiations, either the union or the employer-because we know that the positions are interchangeable depending on the source of the initiative or the

balance of power-could decide to not run the risk of letting its mandate expire before the end of the negotiations.

Instead of putting all its eggs in the bargaining basket, the union will stop negotiations in order to obtain a new mandate to negotiate. This is a real risk, and I hope it does not produce the effects I foresee. Rather than make things more flexible and help the parties reach a solution, the code restricts the conditions under which a strike may be held.

However, a strike may not be held without 72 hours' notice, in some cases, by the union or the employer. The representatives of the ports unions told the committee that, if the longshoremen in a port along the St. Lawrence gave their employer 72 hours' notice of a strike, no ships would unload in the port affected as they would all go elsewhere. In fact, this provision takes away the right to strike, plain and simple.

Also, this 72-hour notice provision, whereby an employer has to give advance notice of a lockout, could prove so inconvenient that employers will want to declare a lock-out on the spot instead of72 hours later.

It seems to me that anyone who knows anything about labour relations would know better than to impose rules like these, especially as they apply to the private sector as a whole. These rules cannot be enforced. An eight-day notice would at least have provided a degree of flexibility. While neither the union nor the employer has to put its cards on the table, in this case, it is quite the opposite.

Therefore, I doubt very much these provisions are relevant in fostering harmonious labour relations. I now come to the provision on essential services.

Notwithstanding what our colleagues from the third party said, I think this kind of provision on essential services was missing in the Canada Labour Code. I want to reaffirm a universally recognized principle: the right of association, whenever it is granted to workers, entails the right to strike. If there are indications that a strike may jeopardize public safety, workers are then asked to maintain a number of essential services.

Any attempt to prohibit strikes altogether has been a complete failure; the strike takes place even if it is illegal. What every country is seeking to ensure is that, even in case of a labour dispute, public health and safety remains paramount.

So, the provisions on essential services are valid, except those dealing with replacement workers. It seems to me that, even in the case of western grain, they could be an improvement, since it is recognized that workers and employers are required to ensure uninterrupted loading of grain.

As far as the west is concerned, grain movement was raised as the most urgent issue. Unfortunately, it is in the case of western grain that the government had to resort to special legislation. There are two problems with these essential services, a minor one and a major one.

The minor problem is that the board does not have to rule on an agreement reached by the workers and the employer. Other codes, including the Quebec code, provide that even when an agreement is reached, that agreement must still be submitted to the board. What is really much more serious is that, since the code does not prohibit the use of replacement workers, we could find ourselves in the absurd situation where the provisions on essential services would be used, meaning that the employer and the union would be required by the board to meet a set of conditions to ensure public health and safety, with the employer using replacement workers at the same time.

There seems to be a gap in this code and this could create huge problems, instead of settling the issue and ensuring that a conflict, while still a conflict, is kept under better control. We are creating conditions that could have the opposite effect and make the conflict more disruptive for the company, the workers and the employer.

I will conclude by saying that the major flaw in this code is that the use of replacement workers is not prohibited. Unfortunately, these workers are the source of many problems, including violence, in labour relations governed by the Canada Labour Code.

Canada Labour Code
Government Orders

1:10 p.m.

Lethbridge
Alberta

Reform

Ray Speaker Lethbridge

Madam Speaker, the hon. member mentioned the grain concerns on the west coast. I appreciate that very much. She indicated that disruptions to that industry should not interrupt the loading of grain and getting it on to the international market.

As the member quite respectfully said, it is an urgent subject in the west. I would like to underline that very much. It is an urgent subject in the west.

It was not a labour problem that stopped grain shipments in January and February this year, it was the railways. They did not deliver the grain. We had interference in the marketplace and farmers in western Canada are now picking up a bill of somewhere between $65 million and $100 million in demurrage charges. This is lost income in the current fiscal crop year.

In this Parliament we have had a labour stoppage on the west coast that cost western farmers $20 million to $30 million. I would like to ask the hon. member a question concerning keeping the respect that we want in terms of the collective bargaining process. How does the farmer as a producer and a shipper into the international market have a say in that bargaining process and at

the same time try to keep the ideal model of a collective bargaining arrangement in place?

Canada Labour Code
Government Orders

1:15 p.m.

Bloc

Francine Lalonde Mercier, QC

Madam Speaker, I hope I have understood my colleague's question. When there are unions and employers, the only thing to do is to negotiate. There is no other solution. The provisions in the code with respect to essential services are intended to regulate what happens in times of conflict.

This is still an improvement over the previous code. I remember saying as Bloc Quebecois critic in the rail strike: "If the Canadian economy cannot afford the Canadian Labour Code then change it, but until then, we defend those who abide by the Code".

We are now at the stage of amending the Canada Labour Code, and there is no doubt that this code regulates labour relations between workers and employers. I saw many problems. I do not think these changes improve bargaining rules. I cannot tell you that it contains all the solutions, but there is at least a provision regarding essential services that should change the situation for the west.

Canada Labour Code
Government Orders

1:15 p.m.

Lethbridge
Alberta

Reform

Ray Speaker Lethbridge

Madam Speaker, one of the suggestions the Reform Party made to this assembly was the idea of having final position arbitration. The farmer as a producer is not in the loop in the bargaining process, and at least it would give the farmer some security in getting his or her grain to market.

Could the hon. member look at that concept and comment on it or are there other ways that the farmer, the producer, the person who depends on the shipping of the grain into the international market can get into the loop in some way?

Canada Labour Code
Government Orders

1:15 p.m.

Bloc

Francine Lalonde Mercier, QC

Madam Speaker, I taught labour relations for many years and final position arbitration never struck me as a means of resolving anything, as a substitute for bargaining, even after one party has made use of its position of strength. I think it is a bit of an illusion, because if this mechanism does not really provide a means of resolving problems and is only the unsatisfactory conclusion of an aborted bargaining process, then the problem will not be resolved.

The problem will manifest itself in another way, legally or not. I understand that this is intellectually satisfying. They say: "We are sure that there will not be a strike because, at the end of the process, we will make the workers choose between the employer's offer and the union's offer". Except that one can think of many situations where this does not resolve the problem. Then you would have a conflict that would not be orderly, a conflict that would explode and would not be subject to the rules set out.

In the end, final position arbitration is an attempt to prevent a strike or a lockout. If this approach were as successful as it is supposed to be or as you claim it is, it would have quickly become widespread, which is not the case. If there were a solution, I would love to know what it is, but there is not.

Canada Labour Code
Government Orders

1:20 p.m.

Reform

Dale Johnston Wetaskiwin, AB

Madam Speaker, I know the hon. member for Mercier's party would have liked to have seen more definition about the anti-replacement worker legislation.

Are there any instances in which she would suggest that replacement workers could be used without having the union side saying that the use of such workers would undermine the position of the union?

I recognize that the member for Mercier has an extensive background in this area and I would be interested to know on which side of this she would come down. Are there any specific instances in which the member would support replacement workers?

Canada Labour Code
Government Orders

1:20 p.m.

Bloc

Francine Lalonde Mercier, QC

Madam Speaker, in the Quebec code-I will refer in my response to a code that exists-as long as a strike is legal, replacement workers cannot be used.

Either labour relations are based on mutual recognition of the rights of the employer and the rights of the workers-and if this recognition is reciprocal, these unionized workers and their employer are responsible for there being a properly controlled relationship, or the rule that applies between labour and management is the law of the jungle. Then might is right, and violence breaks out.

When it comes down to it, these are not choices, but two different types of arrangements. If the desire is for a properly controlled relationship, for unions to be responsible, the unions must be recognized. If they are not, and they are replaced by replacement workers at the first possible chance, with the hope that even the union can be replaced, then there is no possible outcome except disrespect and irresponsible, even violent, attitudes.

To repeat, and for a purpose, when Premier Robert Bourassa regained power in 1985, after the Parti Quebec adopted the 1977 anti-strikebreaker legislation, he told the employers: "Do not try to convince me otherwise; we have social peace in Quebec and that is a valuable commodity".

Indeed, Quebec is the place where you will find what I would call the most responsible management-labour relationships. They work together to develop positions aimed at job creation. It seems to me that this is the type of working relationship that arises out of

mutual respect and recognition. Not that the interests of both sides are always the same, but they are orderly.

Canada Labour Code
Government Orders

1:20 p.m.

Reform

Leon Benoit Vegreville, AB

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-66. I would like to talk about three main areas in my presentation. First, I would like to talk about the current situation in the grain industry and the problems that farmers are facing because they cannot move their grain from the farm to the coast. These are not new problems, but I want to talk about that a bit.

Second, I would like to talk about why we are in this situation and what changes should have been made by governments that would have made the situation that we are in unlikely to happen.

Then I am going to talk about what Reform has done in this area. I am going to include the amendments that we proposed to this legislation, amendments which unfortunately were not accepted by the government and throughout I will be referring to this bill.

As any member in the House who knows anything about western Canada and the agriculture industry would know, a crisis situation exists once again on the prairies. Grain is not moving. As a result grain is backed up on the farms, bins are full, grain is piled in the fields and spring is coming on. That is a dangerous situation. A lot of spoilage is a possibility.

Farmers are facing the difficulty of purchasing inputs for this year's crop, having sold very little of last year's crop. Although I certainly do not know what sales the wheat board, or others in the case of non-board grains, had lined up, the major reason is that the railways are not moving the grain. Why is that? I am going to talk a bit about that later.

I have had farmers tell me, and I have no reason to doubt what they say, that they will not be able to afford to put in a crop this spring if they do not move some grain and move it quickly. It is bad enough that the projections the wheat board made for the price of wheat are not anywhere near being met. The price of wheat is about two-thirds of what the board estimated, and in some cases lower. In many areas of the prairies the quality is very low, so that has further reduced the price.

Farmers are not going to have nearly the income that they anticipated they were going to have. This is a reality that farmers deal with from year to year. Added to that, even the grain they do have, whether it is low quality or not, is not moving.

This problem keeps coming up again and again. Even since I have been in the House we have had to deal with back to work legislation for grain handlers at the west coast. The second speech I gave was on that subject. I am going to talk a bit about that later.

Farmers and grain companies are captive shippers. They have no economic option for moving their grain other than by rail. I acknowledge there are others in the same situation. Coal, forestry products and potash are in a similar situation of being captive shippers, having no other economically viable options for moving their products.

Through no fault of their own, once again, the livelihood of farmers is being threatened. It is a very serious threat. In my part of the country I believe there will be farmers who will lose their farms as a result of grain not moving. They just will not have the money to purchase inputs for this year's crops. The banks are getting really tight with operating money for farmers who have had problems year after year.

In my part of the province farmers have had a lot of difficulty over the past several years due to drought and due to poorer quality grain than normal. That is the situation.

The situation we are in has led to income instability and uncertainty that their product will get to market so that they have income when they need it. The situation of grain not moving as it should has led to lost sales. This is a long term problem many farmers and I are extremely concerned about. We have had stoppage after stoppage and problem after problem in the system that cause serious economic loss to farmers. Lost sales is one of their biggest losses.

In the 1994 lockout grain was not moving through the west coast. Estimates were presented at that time of the loss in long term markets. The estimates were in the hundreds of millions of dollars of lost sales. There is no way to absolutely determine the value of lost sales and future lost sales, but clearly many of our customers for grains, oilseeds and similar type products are getting tired of Canada being an unreliable shipper. Canada is viewed by many buyers around the world as an unreliable shipper.

Is the problem one of farmers not being able to produce or not producing? No, not even in drought years is that the problem. They can produce enough to meet expected needs. Is it a problem of farmers not getting it into the system, to their local elevators or to an inland terminal or wherever? No, that is not the problem. Farmers will deliver whenever the opportunity is there and often even if the price is not what they think it should be. They know the system does not work well and they had better take advantage of any chance to move grain. That is not the problem.

The problem is the grain movement system from one end to the other, from the local elevator system to the rail system and the

handling system on the west coast or through the lake system. That is the problem and that is where the legislation comes in.

The legislation deals with changes to the labour code. It deals with work stoppages that affect grain shipment, as well as the shipment of other commodities. Unfortunately the small part of the legislation that deals with grain movement directly is not adequate. It is one clause of over 90. I will talk a bit about that later.

Farmers have clearly been put into a situation once again that is not right. It should not be happening again. The problem is caused by grain movement. What will the legislation do to improve grain movement? Maybe this question should be asked: What has past legislation the government has put through done to improve the transportation system? I would argue it has done very little. In some ways the system may not be as good as it was before the changes.

Reform supported, for example, the elimination of the Crow benefit. We had a plan that would help deal with the problems that would result from that elimination. The government ignored the plan but eliminated the Crow.

I do not remember Liberal members across the floor campaigning on eliminating the Crow benefit. I do not remember these members across the floor campaigning on major changes to the Canadian Transportation Act or privatizing CN Rail. I do not remember them campaigning on those things. I never heard it in one single speech because they were not proposing during the election campaign major changes that affect many Canadians.

They made changes and we supported some of them such as getting rid of the Crow benefit. We had a plan to help deal with some of the problems. Certainly the privatization of CN was the thing to do, but there were many problems with the bill.

We argued throughout the whole process about the three major pieces of legislation: the budget implementation bill that eliminated the Crow benefit, the major change to the Canadian Transportation Act, and the privatization of CN. We argued that changes must be made before the legislation passed. We argued for changes that would first make the system competitive and would therefore help to drive costs down.

In grain we argued for changes to the car allocation system. They still have not come. They should have come before any of these changes were made. That was crucial. We pointed this out again and again. It did not happen. We are in a mess.

The government has to start listening to farmers and to us because we are the voice of western Canadian farmers more than any other political party.

We also called for changes that would have given captive shippers like grain farmers some power to deal with a railway that was not performing as it should. That was ignored.

In terms of labour laws specifically we called for changes starting from my second speech in the House on February 8, 1994. I heard the hon. member across the floor say that he wished he had never heard it or something to that effect. I can understand that because the chances of him winning his seat in the next election are very slim. It is because we have been saying these things. It is because we have been proposing these things. Western Canadian farmers know that so I can understand his concern.

On February 8, 1994 we started with my speech on ending the lockout on the west coast. I proposed that we put in place final offer selection arbitration as a way to prevent future disputes from happening. The hon. member for Lethbridge tabled a private member's bill which we debated in the House. Had it passed it would have put in place final offer selection arbitration.

Those changes would have made it so there would be no stoppage in grain movement right from the local elevator to the coast. It would still allow the collective bargaining process to take place. It would allow both things. It was the real solution to the problem. Every time a dispute and a deadline would come up the final offer selection arbitration could be put in place. If the collective bargaining process did not work as it should and so often does with unions and management, the arbitrator could call for the best final offer from both labour and management. The arbitrator could pick either all of one offer or all of the other. There could be very serious offers from labour and from management in this situation. The collective bargaining process could take place right down to the final stage.

It is very effective. It really leads to honest negotiations between labour and management. It would help to end some of the hard feelings built up between labour and management as a result of bad labour legislation. That was the solution we proposed. Had it been in place I am convinced we would not have many of the problems we have had related to labour-management disruptions.

The member for Wetaskiwin is guiding the bill through the House for the Reform Party. He proposed final offer selection arbitration. Our agriculture critic, the member for Kindersley-Lloydminster, also proposed that solution. So far the proposals have fallen on deaf ears. Having heard from labour on the matter, while there is not open arm support for the proposal it is a very weak negative reaction. It knows this is far better than the solution

chosen by the government and by former Conservative governments. Their solution was to let the whole thing collapse, to let the collective bargaining process collapse. Management and labour know that when it collapses Parliament steps in and puts in place back to work legislation. That is their solution to the problem.

Is that allowing the collective bargaining process to take place? I think not. That is not a reasonable way to deal with these problems at all. Yet that is what the government has done. In fact that is what past governments have done for the last 20 or 30 years.

As a young fellow I grew up on a grain farm. We depended on grain and livestock but we depended on grain to quite a large extent for our livelihoods. Time after time during my formative years my father was pacing the floor and was put under unreasonable stress for any bread earner because we could not move our grain. Often it was because of a dispute between management and labour. That should not have happened.

The government says that these issues are issues between management and labour. It is not entirely true that they are the only people who are important in these negotiations. For example, tens of thousands of grain farmers rely on the system working. Management and labour can beat it back and forth and what do they really lose? They will lose some wages and that is difficult for them as breadwinners in the family, I am sure. However what about farmers? They have lost businesses year after year after year. Yet they have no place at the table in these negotiations. They are innocent victims who have no say whatsoever. That has to change.

The final offer selection arbitration will help change that. It is time the government looked to our proposals and avoid partisanship when they are probably the best options that have been presented. These are not only Reform MP solutions. They are solutions from farmers across western Canada and indeed others.

I just had pointed out to me by one of my colleagues that the hecklers across the floor do not rely on the grain handling system for their livelihood. They do not fall under the jurisdiction of the Canadian Wheat Board.

We called for other changes to the Canadian Wheat Board so that farmers would have a choice to ship through the board, through a private grain company or on their own. That would result in competition for the board.

The board can continue its work but if farmers choose they can ship around the board. That too was one of the changes that should have been made before any of the legislation was put before the House. I am talking about legislation that eliminated the Crow benefit and changed the Canadian Transportation Act.

In conclusion, the things I have been saying are important to Canadian farmers and to people in the potash industry, in the forestry industry and in the mining industry who are captive shippers. They are innocent victims who have no place at the bargaining table. They will not be helped one iota by the legislation presented to the House.

The one clause dealing with grain reaching the west coast being put through the system just does not cut it. It is a positive part of the legislation but it does not help its movement from the elevator to the west coast.

Unfortunately I have to say I cannot support the legislation. It is a backward move rather than a forward one. I hope the government sees the error of its ways and brings in final offer selection arbitration as an alternative.

Canada Labour Code
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

Saskatoon—Dundurn
Saskatchewan

Liberal

Morris Bodnar Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Industry

Madam Speaker, just to remind the hon. member, Saskatchewan is under the Canadian Wheat Board, for his information. Maybe they do not look across the border but we know what the Canadian Wheat Board is. That may be a surprise to him.

He made reference to a strike in 1994 which dealt with the transportation and movement of grain in western Canada, and in Canada generally, and the extremely high cost which resulted, which was in the hundreds of millions of dollars. At that time the cost to the Canadian economy was in the range of $200 million per day as a result of that strike. As a result, the government decided that it was important to sit on Saturday and Sunday to pass back to work legislation to ensure that people got back to work and that less money would be lost to the Canadian economy. That was done and people got back to work.

Perhaps the hon. member can tell us why on the Saturday only 6 Reformers were present and why only 12 or 13 showed up on the Sunday to vote when there was no-

Canada Labour Code
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

Reform

Jim Gouk Kootenay West—Revelstoke, BC

Madam Speaker, I would call to your attention the words the hon. member is using. If that is in order, as long as we know the rules of the game, we will certainly make reference to their attendance record. It is my understanding that attendance records are not brought up in debate in this House. However, if that is the rule of the Chair, I would be more than happy to play that game.

Canada Labour Code
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1:45 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Ringuette-Maltais)

I have taken into consideration the point of order from the hon. member and I agree that members should not refer to the presence or absence of other members in the House.

Canada Labour Code
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March 11th, 1997 / 1:45 p.m.

Liberal

Morris Bodnar Saskatoon—Dundurn, SK

Madam Speaker, I will rephrase the question. With respect to the back to work legislation which required the House of Commons to sit on a Saturday and a Sunday, perhaps the Reform member can indicate how his party showed concern for western Canadian farmers on that particular weekend when we were dealing with that legislation, getting the workers back to work so

that grain could move in western Canada. How did Reformers show any concern on that particular weekend?

Canada Labour Code
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1:45 p.m.

Reform

Leon Benoit Vegreville, AB

Madam Speaker, if the hon. member would check the record he would see that we supported that back to work legislation. I spoke in favour of it, as did many of my colleagues.

For the hon. member to say that back to work legislation is the way to solve these continual disruptions in the grain handling system is asinine. I would like him to go to the rural areas around Saskatoon, where he is from, to tell farmers that back to work legislation is the way to fix the problem. Clearly it is not.

In terms of the House sitting over the weekend, let us end the charade. We know that if the government wants to put any legislation through the House it will put it through. Liberal MPs and opposition MPs could all go home and the Prime Minister and his little group of two, three or four people could continue to make the decisions, as they do now. It would not make one bit of difference. We could all go home.

The only reason for opposition members to be here is to impact public opinion. The hon. member and other government members may as well go home because they are not allowed to speak in opposition to anything the government proposes. Let us end the charade. They can ram this stuff through. They have invoked closure dozens of times in this House in record numbers.

The Prime Minister has let it be known how he looks at democracy. Only 3 Liberal members voted against the gun bill out of the roughly 60 government members who said there constituents wanted them to vote against the gun bill. What was their reward for representing their constituents? They were kicked off their committees. The Prime Minister said publicly after that if any government members in future dare to vote against a piece of government legislation he will not sign their nomination papers and their political careers will be over. That is the kind of democracy this party believes in.

Let us end the charade and start talking in an honest way in this House. If we have different opinions on issues, that is fine. If the Liberals have a different view of democracy, as clearly they do, then that should be expressed. We will continue to express our view of democracy which is giving our constituents real say in what goes on in this place.

Reform has proposed to do that through several mechanisms, for example, right of recall of an MP, the ability to fire an MP. There might have been some who would have been fired had that been in place. Freer votes in the House of Commons would have made it so that a government bill defeated does not necessarily defeat the government. It takes a separate non-confidence motion which passes to defeat the government. Another is the use of referenda on key issues like capital punishment and abortion. That along with a triple E senate would make this country truly democratic. Reform put forth legislation in all of these areas.

The member talks about doing things for constituents. Did he vote in favour of the gun bill? He voted in favour. Did his constituents want him to? They did not.