House of Commons Hansard #51 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was workers.

Topics

Emergency Management Act
Government Orders

1 p.m.

Conservative

James Bezan Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Mr. Speaker, my colleague from Winnipeg talked about a lot of different issues and only a very few of those really refer to the bill itself.

The bill talks about increasing the cooperation between all jurisdictions in disasters. My hon. colleague made mention of the Red River flood in 1997. It was devastating for the province of Manitoba and for my riding. I was out sand bagging. I made sure I went along with our Canadian soldiers who were also sand bagging and helping the local residents and our province in protecting our assets. We are extremely grateful for that.

It is that type of cooperation among all jurisdictions, Manitoba, all provinces, the federal government and the municipalities, that made it happen.

In my riding just in the last two years we have had two disasters that required EMO services. We had a flash flood that went through Lester Beach, which was extremely devastating and completely unpredictable. There was no way we could have had any preventative measures in tact to prevent what happened. Cars were washed into the river and houses were lifted off their foundations and moved 20 feet or 30 feet.

This year a tornado went through Gull Lake and killed one lady. We had a lot of damage in the community. Houses were completely destroyed. Seasonal residences were completely demolished. We could not even make out what was there before.

Because of those situations we need to ensure that we strengthen the whole Emergency Measures Act. That is why I support the bill.

The member talked about the Red River floodway. The bill is also trying to address the whole issue of being preventative. He mentioned Duff Roblin, the Conservative premier of Manitoba. Back in the sixties he had the vision and the dream to build a giant ditch to divert water. I think only construction of the Panama Canal moved more earth than the Red River floodway in Manitoba to divert water around our capital region and protect the city.

There have been some problems with that, and we have an expansion going on right now. A lot of the negative impacts are happening in my riding. We might sacrifice the city of Selkirk and historic site of Lower Fort Garry because of not taking the extra preventive measures to ensure that we have riverbank stabilization down the entire river right out to the mouth of the Red River into Lake Winnipeg.

When he is talking with his NDP colleagues back at the provincial level in Manitoba, does he feel we need to ensure that we have preventative measures in place so we are not just dealing with mitigations and trying to address things after the fact, after the damage is done, like groundwater contamination, property damage and ongoing infrastructure damage, because of not having that foresightedness?

Emergency Management Act
Government Orders

1:05 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, the member for Selkirk—Interlake has a legitimate point. There is a cautionary tale for anyone who interferes with nature. The flow of a river is not something to be taken lightly. It can have adverse consequences that we might think we can control as engineers, carpenters and builders, but often we are powerless to stop. There is a legitimate caution that nothing we do should adversely affect those downstream.

That goes back as far as the Magna Carta. One of the very first things cited in any kind of written record about how we relate to each other and govern ourselves is the rights of those downstream. Thou shalt not do something that is going to affect the water rights of one's neighbour down the stream.

The city of Selkirk has a legitimate argument as do the people of Manitoba as the Governor of North Dakota seeks to divert Devils Lake through the interbasin transfer of water into the Red River system and to pollute our beloved great inland sea, Lake Winnipeg. That is worth noting in the House of Commons in the context of an emergency measures debate as well.

The state of North Dakota is acting like a rogue state. I think it is acting more like North Korea than North Dakota in its absolute intransigence to listen to the scientists, to listen to reason, to listen to the pleas of its neighbours to the north who have a legitimate grievance. It is not allowed to violate the International Boundary Waters Treaty Act just because it has a water problem in Devils Lake, North Dakota. That lake is full of invasive species that will get into this other whole drainage basin that flows up the Red River to Lake Winnipeg and into Hudson's Bay.

It is a catastrophe waiting to happen. It is a violation against nature. It is a crime against Mother Nature to divert water in this interbasin way. I hope our emergency measures team are ready to cope with this lack of sensitivity from our American neighbours to the south. It is a pressing problem that deserves the attention of the House. I know it has the attention of the Minister of Foreign Affairs and his counterpart in the United States, Condoleezza Rice, but we had it on the table for years.

I personally have gone to Washington with Lloyd Axworthy to appeal to American senators from those northern states and said, “Don't do this for heaven's sake. Don't commit this crime against nature”, and they continue to plough ahead with it. It is an emergency for the province of Manitoba.

Emergency Management Act
Government Orders

1:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

The hon. member for Drummond.

Emergency Management Act
Government Orders

1:05 p.m.

Bloc

Pauline Picard Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, I did not want to participate in this debate.

Emergency Management Act
Government Orders

1:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

The member for Ottawa Centre, then.

Emergency Management Act
Government Orders

1:05 p.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, my colleague, the hon. member for Winnipeg Centre, has outlined for us what the parameters are when we are dealing with emergency preparedness.

When we dealt with the ice storm in Ottawa and Quebec as well, when I was volunteering to help out the army and others, one of the things that became crystal clear was that we relied upon the front line workers, the men and women, who are nurses, paramedics and people in our military, and we need to support them.

One area that concerns me greatly is the public health issue in emergency preparedness. We do not have enough public health nurses ready to go because we have abandoned public health. We need more capacity.

How can we better prepare ourselves in our communities by involving, training and building more nursing capacity?

Emergency Management Act
Government Orders

1:10 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, Canadians have been generally lucky that we have been relatively free of catastrophic events. I am 50 years old and very few events stand out like the Ottawa ice storm or the flood of the century in 1997 in Winnipeg.

I am concerned as well that perhaps we are not building a culture of preparedness and not preparing in anticipation of these events. We can be sure that as climate change becomes more and more a reality, radical climatic events are going to happen more frequently. The magnitude of the ice storm itself ground down a great city in a few short hours. We can be assured that there will be similar events all over the world on a more frequent basis. There is no way to ensure against that level of devastation, but we can prepare for the human effect, and that is workers on the ground, public health workers, people who are deputized to leap into action.

I am surprised we do not have the type of emergency measures preparation going on today like we did during the Cold War. Drills would be held now and then in classes and students would be told to dive under their desks. They were told what to do in the event of nuclear fallout.

We do not contemplate disaster and happily go along because we are a peaceful nation and blessed with very few natural catastrophic events in terms of earthquakes, floods, ice storms and hurricanes. Let us not kid ourselves, though. We are bringing this upon ourselves, and we will realize more of these events with a vengeance as climate change becomes more of a reality.

Emergency Management Act
Government Orders

1:10 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-12, which is an act to provide for emergency management. It is a very important bill.

In summary, the bill is designed to strengthen Canada's readiness to mitigate the impact of, prepare for, prevent and respond to all hazards. It really replaces the Emergency Preparedness Act of 1988 and is virtually identical to Bill C-78 introduced in 2005 by the previous government. Even though there is a new government in place, there is not much new. The Conservatives are still building on the good acts of the previous government. There are exceptions to that, such as where they sold out to big rail in terms of the Canada Transportation Act and they are selling out to big grain under the Canadian Wheat Board Act, but we will leave that for another day.

In short, the Liberal Party welcomes the government's reintroduction of the emergency management bill tabled by the Liberal government in November 2005. The introduction of the bill last year fulfilled a promise made in our national security policy of April 2004.

The act builds on the excellent Liberal record on security since 9/11: one, an investment of over $9.5 billion to strengthen national security, to improve emergency preparedness and to contribute to international security; two, the creation of the Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness; and three, the establishment of a national 24-7 government operations centre to coordinate federal emergency responses.

Having been a former solicitor general after 9/11, I can certainly vouch for the measures that are taken in this bill. It is a strange thing about us as a country. Canada is a great country. We are tolerant people and we have many benefits, but sometimes we take safety and security a little too much for granted. The Red River floods were mentioned earlier. There is the odd hurricane in the country. In fact, during hurricane Juan in eastern Canada I lost two barn roofs in my own operation. But those events are small compared to what happens in other countries around the world. Then we add some of the terrorist actions that are happening. In fact, the President of Afghanistan spoke about some of those activities this morning.

We have to be vigilant on all fronts in terms of the natural hazards and in terms of the man-made hazards through terrorism and other means. As a former solicitor general I know from having seen things up close how important some of these measures that are proposed in this bill are to the safety, the security and the preparedness for emergency events within Canada.

It is important to review some of the activities that have taken place since 9/11. These measures add to that. I know the government opposite tends not to mention these, but it is important to see what we are building on as we provide greater safety and security for the country.

On October 3, 2003 the deputy prime minister of the day, John Manley, announced the smart border action plan. There was NAFTA a little earlier, but at that point in time he gave a fairly substantive report on it.

I want to outline for Canadians some of the things that have been done through that 30 point plan on which this bill actually builds. Canada and the United States had agreed to develop common standards for biometrics which both countries use and they had agreed to adopt interoperable and comparable technology to read those biometrics. That is still being worked on; progress is constantly being made in that area. There was the announcement of permanent resident cards, a single alternative inspection system, the NEXUS highway system at the border crossings.

The amount of trade that goes on between the United States and Canada is to the tune of between $1.6 billion to $2 billion a day. We saw what happened in the wake of 9/11 when the border system virtually shut down and how it affected both economies. It is important in what we do in terms of emergency preparedness and security measures, that that commercial activity is still able to flow and that residents of both countries can feel secure with those measures in place.

As I said in a question earlier, I am extremely disappointed by the action the United States has taken with the new inspection fees. It is really disguised protectionism under the guise of security. I may talk about that later in a little more depth.

Other measures were taken in the 30 point smart action plan. There was a refugee asylum processing system, a statement of mutual understanding which would allow countries to more effectively exchange information on immigration related issues. That is the way we should be moving, with a processing system that actually looks at the facts instead of the fiction that some congressmen and senators in the United States are talking about, such as putting up the towers as if there were a major immigration system coming from Canada. There is not. For whatever reason, some people around the President of the United States like to operate on the politics of fear and try to blame Canada as if we were part of the problem. We are not.

We have made major steps ahead, as I said, with the expenditure of $9.5 billion to ensure the security of our country, the security of our border and indeed, the security of North America.

There was agreement on a process of managing those refugees and asylum claims. We had improved a better visa policy coordination.

Point seven in the plan was air preclearance. Probably most people in the House have taken advantage of air preclearance at several airports within Canada and the United States. If we go through preclearance, it saves time, it is better for business, it is better for people doing commercial business and it is indeed secure.

We had worked on the advanced passenger information and passenger name record. I agree that is somewhat controversial, and the Minister of Transport certainly knows how controversial it is. I will state unequivocally that even though it is controversial, it is one of those areas we have to look at it in order to give the assurance of security.

I might just move aside from the 30 points for a minute and say that one of the greatest difficulties in my experience in this whole area of security is the balancing of civil liberties and the protection of security in a country. It is a difficult area. There always will be grey areas, but we have to find that balance and it is not always easy to do.

Point nine was the joint passenger analysis units.

We established stronger measures for maritime security and ferry terminals. I have had the opportunity to see some of those in action. Containers are passed through X-ray machines to ensure there is not material in those containers that would have an impact on the country.

We have moved toward compatible immigration databases, immigration officers overseas, international cooperation between Canada and the United States and other countries. We harmonized commercial processing in a number of areas. There is still a lot more work to be done but it was a key point at the time. That was trying to provide clearances away from the border which would give a greater measure of security.

We established a number of joint facilities, common customs data, container targeting at seaports, infrastructure improvements overall, better intelligence in terms of the transportation system, and better critical infrastructure protection.

The member for Edmonton Centre yesterday spoke on this whole area of infrastructure. We are not only talking about roads, highways, water and sewage. In this new era we are talking about communications and related areas and food security. All those infrastructure areas have to be protected in the kind of world we live in today.

Point 22 was better aviation security. We have succeeded in doing that.

Point 23 was integrated border and management enforcement teams. We called them IBETs. There were some 14 established across the country. I have seen them operation. People in Canada and the United States can have great confidence in how those IBETs work. They bring together a cross-section of law enforcement agencies, whether it is the RCMP, the Ontario Provincial Police, the New York State Police, marine police and so on. They communicate and coordinate in a fashion that will make a difference in terms of the protection of the country's security.

We had established joint enforcement coordination at a number of locations at a cross-border crime forum for the prevention of crimes and the protection of the security of the nation.

We moved ahead with integrated intelligence in areas that we called integrated national security enforcement teams, or INSETs, which I think moved a long way since 9/11. The security bodies, whether it be the CIA, CSIS and others, came together for coordination and cooperation.

I see that time is passing, so I will just mention the other points by name.

There was the agreement to continue cooperation in the removal of deportees; counter-terrorism legislation; freezing of terrorist assets; joint training and exercises between the two countries; biosecurity; and science and technology cooperation.

Those were some of the advances that have in fact been made by the previous government, an expenditure of $9.5 billion. This bill moves forward in some of those areas. The revised act grants new powers to the Minister of Public Safety to exercise national level leadership in emergency management in four areas.

First, coordinating federal responses to emergencies in Canada and the United States. It is extremely important in those areas on this continent that our ministers responsible act concisely and coordinate their efforts.

Second, establishing standardized elements for the Government of Canada in terms of emergency plans. As a country we need to know what our plan is before it happens. That is extremely important.

Third, monitoring and evaluating emergency management plans of federal institutions. If there was an incident in this country, that is absolutely necessary, whether it is a natural, man-made or terrorist act.

Fourth, enhancing cooperations with other jurisdictions through common standards and information sharing. We have made massive moves ahead in that area of cooperation and coordination.

I want to close though in terms of one of the areas that I am disappointed in, as I said earlier. We can see the measures that the Government of Canada has taken in our country and in coordination with other countries around the world, and especially in coordination and cooperation with the United States, to ensure that we live on a safe and secure North American continent.

Yet, the Americans have imposed these fees under the guise of security, which I think are protectionist measures. I am disappointed in that because when we look at the record, this country stands at the front of the line in terms of security and emergency preparedness. This bill will in fact assist in that regard and I support it.

Emergency Management Act
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

Is the House ready for the question?

Emergency Management Act
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

Emergency Management Act
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Emergency Management Act
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

Some hon. member

Agreed.

Emergency Management Act
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

An hon. member

On division.

Emergency Management Act
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

I declare the motion carried. Accordingly, the bill stands referred to the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security.

(Motion agreed to, bill read the second time and referred to a committee)

Canada Labour Code
Private Members' Business

September 22nd, 2006 / 1:30 p.m.

NDP

Catherine Bell Vancouver Island North, BC

moved that Bill C-295, An Act to amend the Canada Labour Code (replacement workers), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, I am very proud to stand in the House to debate C-295, an act to amend the Canada Labour Code to prohibit the use of strikebreakers

Strikebreakers, scabs and replacement workers, call them whatever, they have no place in modern labour negotiations. The issue has been coming up in the House for well over 20 years. Similar bills have come close to being passed that would eliminate the use of strikebreakers.

In 2002 and 2005, anti-scab bills were lost by only a handful of votes. It is time for this Parliament to deliver what Canadian workers have been asking for: fairness, justice and equality.

I would like to recognize the work that our party has done over the years for labour rights in Canada. We have fought, since our inception, to bring equity and fairness to workers because what is good for workers is good for all Canadians.

The NDP understands that workers' rights are human rights, that workers have fought for and won the right to form unions, to bargain collectively, to withdraw their labour to achieve gains in the workplace, or to stop destructive practices.

Personally, I feel very strongly about this amendment. Working in the labour movement for over 12 years, I have seen firsthand the devastation that scabs have on a workforce and in communities. I have seen families torn apart and alienated over many years because of an ideology that does not support workers' rights.

Fair wages, a safe workplace, health care and pensions are just some of the things that the labour movement and collective bargaining have achieved. Many of these things are now taken for granted, gains that our forefathers and mothers fought for and even died for, so that future generations would have better working conditions and better lives.

The bill that we are debating today is fundamental to protecting those hard-fought gains. The bill contains a consequence when workers' rights are ignored. Without real deterrents the use of strikebreakers will continue to erode the legacy of generations of past workers.

The bill is similar to another private member's bill currently making its way through the House. I would like to thank my hon. colleagues from the Bloc for the work that they are doing, and have done in the past, standing up for working women and men in Quebec. The province of Quebec understands and respects the rights of workers and has had anti-scab legislation for almost 30 years.

I hope my hon. colleagues will support this bill and give workers across the country the real protection that they deserve.

C-295 is a much stronger amendment to the Canada Labour Code. It would prohibit the use of replacement workers and it has a real deterrent, a consequence if replacement workers are used in a strike or lockout. Without deterrents that will make employers think twice before breaking the law, the amendment is less effective and leaves workers without protection.

I know there will be arguments from other hon. members who disagree with this amendment, so let me say how these changes will benefit workers and their employers, their workplaces, the community and the economy.

Currently, 97% of collective agreements are negotiated without a strike or lockout. That is because most employers know they have a legal responsibility to negotiate with their unionized employees. However, when that does not happen, when an abusive employer ignores that responsibility and strikebreakers are called in, tensions rise in the workplace and on the picket line. Both sides generally get dug into their positions and the strike or lockout is left to drag on. The scabs are generally caught in the middle of what becomes a volatile situation and are often used by the employer.

These situations leave lasting scars on workplaces and communities and sometimes never fully heal. The cost in reduced or lost production can have devastating effects on local economies for many years to come.

By eliminating the practice of scab labour, we are likely to see the amount of strikes and lockouts drop and those that do happen will not last as long.

In Quebec, for example, since adopting anti-scab legislation in its labour code, it has gone from an average of 39 days lost due to strikes down to 15 days. In B.C. there was a 50% drop in the number of days lost in the first year the law was introduced there. In Ontario, where it had anti-scab law in place for only two years, there were similar results.

Shorter lockouts and strikes mean the impact of work stoppages on families and communities is lessened. As strikes and lockouts drag on, other businesses suffer. Workers on strike or locked out do not have the money to spend that they once had. This can have a prolonged impact on small and single industry towns and that impact could last for many years after the dispute.

Scabs are also generally exploited. They tend to be desperate, in need of a job, and can be paid less than unionized workers to do the same job. They have no job security. The conditions they work in are generally worse as health and safety standards, hours or work, as well as other conditions of the collective agreement do not apply to them.

By lowering working standards we are putting workers' safety and possibly other lives in jeopardy. Scab workers bring out the worst in employers and employees. Their use creates strife and malice. Those who do cross a picket line are not quickly forgotten.

C-295 would go a long way toward reducing tension and violence on a picket line. Strikes and lockouts are hard enough without watching day after day someone else goes in to do someone's job. Sometimes tensions and frustrations build until it is expressed in violence.

There is evidence that domestic violence increases during periods of labour unrest. While violence is never excusable, it helps to understand the root cause so we can act to prevent this type of behaviour.

By ending scab labour we will create a more peaceful picket line. Resentment on both sides will not be as strong and therefore productivity and company loyalty will return sooner, making the employee-employer relationship much more healthy and productive.

Others have argued that the current labour code already deals with replacement workers. They point out that the current law, subsection 94(2.1), which reads in part:

No employer or person acting on behalf of an employer shall use, for the demonstrated purpose of undermining a trade union’s representational capacity rather than the pursuit of legitimate bargaining objectives, the services of a person who was not an employee in the bargaining unit--

It goes on to state that this current language was created through consultation between labour and management and is therefore fair and balanced.

However, subsection 94(2.1) explicitly allows the use of scabs, replacement workers, as long as the employer is not undermining the collective bargaining process. By their very nature, scabs undermine collective bargaining.

When they are used, there is no incentive for employers to go back to the bargaining table and bargain in good faith with their employees. If there is no ability to use replacement workers at all, the ability to undermine the bargaining process would be diminished.

The Ekati diamond mine strike in the Northwest Territories is a recent example of how employers like BHP Billiton, a multi-billion dollar a year company, took advantage of the current legislation. During negotiations, BHP tried to remove articles that had previously been negotiated and it took the union months to present its case in front of the labour relations board even though BHP was in clear violation of the labour code.

The company continued to operate with replacement workers and there was no significant penalty for trying to undermine the collective bargaining process. Without serious deterrents or consequences there is nothing stopping this type of behaviour from happening again.

Another recent lockout of Telus employees that was allowed to drag on for months causing tension on both sides could have been a lot shorter if the company did not have the ability to use replacement workers. I salute all those workers who hung in there to maintain the gains that they made under very trying circumstances.

We know this legislation can work. In Quebec, there has been virtual silence from employers whenever the labour code is up for review. In my home province of B.C. in 2002, the government left the anti-scab clauses alone in its rewrite of the provincial labour code. It knows, as employers do, that anti-scab legislation works.

Progressive changes at the federal level will send a strong signal to the remaining provincial governments to introduce bills to end the use of replacement workers.

Canada's federal labour laws cover one out of every ten jobs across the country, jobs that play a critical role in our national economy. In today's world, reducing the risk of disruption at our borders, airports and telecommunications networks is vital. This debate has gone on for well over 20 years. I am sure that if we listen closely, we can still hear the sound of the previous debates echoing in the chamber.

As parliamentarians, we must come together and say, no, to the arcane and destructive practices of using scabs, replacement workers and strike breakers. We must do what is in the best interests of working families. We must support this crucial amendment to the Canada Labour Code.