House of Commons Hansard #120 of the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was legislation.

Topics

Resumption and Continuation of Railway Operations
Government Orders

1:10 p.m.

Liberal

Maria Minna Beaches—East York, ON

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member is absolutely right. We do need to keep in mind the impact a strike has on the country and on the economy, but we also need to keep in mind the importance of negotiations, of maintaining the right to strike and of maintaining the negotiations that are going on right now.

It is important to keep in mind that Parliament is being asked to act before it even sees a bill. I do not think we can give a definitive answer until we see the bill. It is like putting the cart before the horse, to some degree. I would like to see the bill. However, before I even see the bill, I think there are issues that the government can address and that I would like to see the minister address. That is what I am trying to get at.

It is my understanding, from what has been happening in the last week, that there are some outstanding issues, two major ones, and one is wages. However, the wages can be dealt with more amicably or under arbitration that the other issue of increasing the mileage, which is a much more contentious issue and the big deal breaker.

I do not quite understand why it is not possible to have information on that. I do not have an impact analysis for that and I do not think anyone in the House has one. We are getting two completely different reports from the union and the company as to what that means. Is it the long hours that the union is talking about, which is a huge thing, or is it the short hours?

The minister should be able to give us, through her office, a thorough assessment of what that means, what the impact is and what the reality is of those two negotiations. I look forward to seeing that information because I think that would help.

Resumption and Continuation of Railway Operations
Government Orders

1:15 p.m.

Bloc

Luc Desnoyers Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, of course, the Bloc Québécois is currently against any motion that would restrict debate on a bill to implement back to work legislation for Canadian National strikers, since the Bloc Québécois believes that at this stage, such a bill is premature.

We would rather that the parties continue talks. As a number of my colleagues have mentioned, the parties are currently in talks, and the issues continues to evolve. It is important to keep up this pace of negotiations and continue to recognize a union's right to strike. The right to negotiate a collective agreement has been recognized for many years, was even recognized by the Supreme Court of Canada, and is also protected by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

For a number of years in Canada and Quebec, more and more collective agreements have been negotiated without strikes or lockouts. That is a sign of a radical shift in the past few years, and it is a sign that employers know they are better off sitting down at a negotiating table than sitting down and trying to have the government implement back to work legislation.

Long-term collective agreements have been negotiated for some years now. In many cases, agreements are negotiated every 5, 10 or 15 years. Now, imagine if we were to intervene in a case like this. Workers would not be able to protect their legitimate rights in the collective agreement, in order to significantly improve their working conditions or to change existing conditions, if changes are deemed necessary by one of the parties.

Employers now know that they must negotiate long-term agreements because everything changes quickly: technology changes quickly, and labour relations change quickly. Employers need to be more flexible and need to be in partnership with workers. It is more profitable for companies to work this way.

Thus, employers are changing their way of doing things, while the government is still in the same place, with back to work legislation that never fundamentally resolves the problems or the main issues in a collective agreement, because a third party is asked to resolve the problems. When a third party resolves the situation, labour relations between the parties are not based on mutual trust, and that does not help improve or strengthen labour relations.

I would like to quote Ron Lawless, who was the president of CN in the 1990s. What he said then still holds true today. Mr. Lawless said that government intervention in collective bargaining interferes with good business practices. In addition, back to work legislation and arbitration do not help the parties properly address the main issues. This sort of legislation prevents the parties from taking collective bargaining seriously.

The president of CN said that some years ago, and it could still apply today. This is a regressive law from a regressive government that persists in using this sort of legislation even though, a few years ago—I am thinking of 2004, for example—labour disputes at the federal level were settled without back to work legislation. There were strikes, but they were settled and the parties eventually reached an agreement. Today in those groups, management and labour get along well.

Regarding CN, in 2007, the Conservatives, who had come to power the year before, had already started introducing back to work legislation that benefited employers, but not necessarily workers.

But essentially, the problems are never resolved with this approach. Frustration and bitterness remain, and the parties are never able to build good labour relations.

Looking at the current situation at CN, we can say that labour relations have been unhealthy for some time now. It started in 2007, when the Conservative government passed the first law to force the conductors back to work. The union at the time was the same. The same labour relations problems exist today: grievances, disciplinary action, suspensions, layoffs. All the rules for implementing the collective agreement are being challenged in all their forms. How can healthy labour relations be established under such conditions?

Once again, this employer is expecting the government to pass back to work legislation and abolish the workers' right to negotiate a collective agreement. But the right to strike is recognized as a fundamental right. What is happening is that employers like CN are sitting back and waiting for the Conservative government to legislate employees back to work.

Let us take a look at other CN groups. Labour relations were starting to get established. The 2004 strike was settled after 30 days and activities were resumed. I am referring to the carmen and other tradespeople. I am not saying that everything is resolved, but the two parties began working together to establish good relations.

CN's collective agreements have a long history and they allow problems to be resolved. Significant precedents have been built up.

In the matter before us, CN has taken every measure possible to exert pressure on the engineers. It now wants to force them to increase their hours of work, even double them, which is more than the Canadian average. It wants these workers to do more for less, which would put lives in danger.

For decades, the current system has never been challenged. Today, that is what CN is doing. It wants to use the Conservative government for its own purposes, namely to increase the hours of work of the engineers who drive the locomotives.

Earlier the parliamentary secretary spoke of the economic crisis, saying that this will cause significant losses. I do not know where he is getting his information from because we were told that CN has been training its management and a large group of non-unionized employees for months in order to maintain over 60% of its service.

Canadian Pacific, which has two parallel lines all across Canada—one is CN's the other is CP's—could cover the other 40% of the service CN claims not to be able to provide.

Let me take this even further. There are truck drivers who can step in, not to mention the short lines in the regions that can be used to serve the Canadian public. For the Montreal region, for example, AMT signed an agreement and passenger service is still running, such that we now have roughly 120% service.

Given all these possibilities, I wonder why the Conservatives think there is a crisis and a need for additional service. We have to allow the negotiations to continue in good faith between the parties and force them to agree on a collective agreement.

As I mentioned earlier, that is not what we are doing. We are telling them that every time they go to negotiation they will get legislation. This type of legislation has reappeared significantly since the Conservatives came to power in 2006.

Earlier, I was talking about various strikes. I will digress for a moment. Services do not require back to work legislation. According to CN, and based on existing options, service will be maintained. In 2004, a strike was settled after 30 days. Since that time, working relations have been different but some things have been resolved. In 2007, after the arrival of the Conservatives, there was the dispute with the conductors and a law was imposed after two weeks. The bitterness remains. When the same people involved in a disastrous conflict are seated around the negotiating table for months and months, mutual trust will disappear and it will be difficult to rebuild it. It rarely happens. That type of situation requires mediation and conciliation. I have always said that, if necessary, it takes an army of mediators and conciliators.

It has been proven in the past that it is possible to resolve disputes, to move things forward. Also, progress has been made. On Friday, they were saying that there would be no arbitration. Today, they are talking about arbitration for some aspects of the collective agreement. There has been progress.

Why would we want to stop these negotiations after three days? That is the Conservative practice, which they applied in 2007. They stopped negotiations. That did not improve employer-employee relations, which remain strained to this day. If we look at the Conservative approach to employee support, for example, in the auto sector, we see they wanted to impose wage cuts. I am not quite sure that it was in the workers' interests. Fortunately, the union found other solutions.

With regard to collective agreements in the federal public service, where there have been significant cutbacks and the erosion of pay equity, I am not sure that it is a pro-worker approach. The Bloc Québécois' Bill C-395, to exclude the employment insurance waiting period in the event of a work conflict, was also rejected.

Given all of these stances, which are not pro-worker, it should come as no surprise that we are considering back to work legislation today, but unfortunately, not for the right reasons.

That is why the Bloc Québécois will not vote in favour of the motion and will not support such a bill. We have to make it possible for these CN workers—like the other CN workers who were able to participate in good-faith negotiations between the parties—to resolve the existing issues between the parties. This is not just about resolving economic and salary issues. This is also about using these collective agreements to resolve grievances and the issues arising from these grievances and coming up with a labour relations framework to resolve these issues.

Imposing legislation like what has been proposed ignores all of these issues. Of course, the Conservatives have been accustomed to doing that for some time. They ignore the issues, and when it comes to labour, they have been doing that for a long time, and been standing in the way of resolving problems through collective agreements.

Nothing was resolved in the federal workers' collective agreement. There are ongoing talks with employees under federal jurisdiction, federal government employees in particular, and the issues are not being resolved. The same thing will happen with the rail sector and CN.

These are the reasons why we intend to vote against this motion, which is premature.

Resumption and Continuation of Railway Operations
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his strong statement on behalf of labour. At this point in time, the arguments resonate very strongly everywhere in this place except on the government side. It would appear that we are in the process of debating closure on a bill that we have not seen yet, which does not seem to show good faith by the government. Therefore, I suspect that it is not really showing good faith with regard to the prospects of negotiations being successful.

Wages are an outstanding matter on which they are not that far off. However, there is a very significant disparity between them on the hours and the mileage cap. This is concerning. It should be concerning to parliamentarians as well. The previous speaker from Beaches—East York laid out a reasoned argument that parliamentarians should get a comprehensive assessment from the Minister of Labour as to the facts and details.

It sounds eminently wise for us to determine what the prospects will be for progress in the negotiations.

I want to thank the member for his input, but I hope he can give us some words of wisdom with regard to how we can proceed to make sure there is a good faith resolution to this problem we have.

Resumption and Continuation of Railway Operations
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

Bloc

Luc Desnoyers Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his question.

There is no doubt that negotiations are all about the balance of power between the parties. Every time they sit down at the bargaining table, the parties know what is at stake and are well aware that sooner or later the issues will be resolved, which will advance their respective interests and improve labour relations.

We have seen what has been happening at CN since 2004 and just before that. Strangely, there was no back to work legislation with the airlines and the air traffic controllers, yet everyone managed to resolve their issues. People trusted that the collective bargaining would be in good faith.

Then in 2007, we saw the first back to work legislation. Thus it began. Trends began shifting in major sectors. Here again today, we are faced with a bill that shows a distrust of both parties, that suggests that they do not need to make any effort or take negotiations seriously, that legislation will be passed and everyone will be happy.

I am not convinced that people will be happy when they realize that this back to work legislation tends to weaken labour relations. The main issues, which are normally resolved at the bargaining table, will not be settled.

Resumption and Continuation of Railway Operations
Government Orders

1:35 p.m.

NDP

Chris Charlton Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, I particularly welcome hearing my colleague say that right now there is absolutely no service disruption with respect to CN Rail. In fact, as members of the House may know, one of the ironies is that CN has some of the commuter lines in and around Toronto, and it was the union that had to take management to court to actually keep those lines open. It was the union that ensured that passenger rail service and commuter rail service were there for people in and around Montreal this morning. I want to congratulate the Teamsters on having taken that step.

Management is trying in every way possible to create a scenario of urgency for us in the House. That urgency, frankly, does not exist right now. The only urgency I have heard the government speak about, apart from hypothetical scenarios that might evolve some time down the road, is the parliamentary secretary twice referring to the fact that the House is scheduled to adjourn in two weeks. I have to say, as happy as I am that Santa is coming soon, I do not think we should be deliberating on things as important as serious labour negotiations in this country based on some arbitrary deadline set by the House, even a deadline that may be just 10 days away. I know that I and my colleagues in the NDP are very happy to stay for as long as we must to get the business done for the people of Canada.

I wonder if the member from the Bloc would comment, because I am sure he shares our commitment to being here on behalf of working people in Canada.

Resumption and Continuation of Railway Operations
Government Orders

1:35 p.m.

Bloc

Luc Desnoyers Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, as I said earlier, negotiations should not interrupted once they have begun.

The various parties are still talking and progress is being made. If there is any chance they can resolve it themselves, we must let them do so. Of course they must be given all the necessary tools, such as a team of mediators or conciliators. They must be given even more tools, in order to solve this problem and ensure healthy labour relations in the years to come. I think it is premature to move this motion in the House of Commons, considering the progress that has been made.

I agree with my hon. colleague. We will take the time needed to debate it and allow people to negotiate, in order to get an overall picture.

Resumption and Continuation of Railway Operations
Government Orders

1:35 p.m.

Conservative

Chris Warkentin Peace River, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would ask my friend across the way a question as it relates to rail service, specifically the rail service for those communities that are very dependent on lumber revenues. I am hearing this morning from a number of the mills in my riding that they are fearful they will not have service that is essential to their companies and mills continuing to work. As a matter of fact, we are hearing anecdotes and are getting evidence even this morning that service has dropped and, in some cases, is being discontinued.

I was just contacted by a company that is hanging on by its fingertips because of market conditions and that is stating that if it is not able to ship its product this week, next week and the following week, it will have to shut down, which may be the end of the company. As a matter of fact, things are so tenuous and perilous at this point within the lumber industry that if its existing problems are compounded by transportation issues, these companies will go out of business.

I know the hon. member has an understanding of the forestry sector. I wonder if he can send out words of encouragement to the sector, but also indicate where he stands if in fact this starts to impact the forestry sector in Quebec as well.

Resumption and Continuation of Railway Operations
Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

Bloc

Luc Desnoyers Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question.

We have spoken with the Conservative minister and other stakeholders. Right now, CN says it is prepared to continue to provide 60% to 70% of services. As I said to my colleague opposite, since he comes from a region served by the railway, Canadian Pacific also has parallel railways, which makes it possible to serve these communities. There are also short lines—regional lines—and truck drivers.

CN is able to provide close to 70% of services to the communities, unless what I have heard is so much nonsense. If CP provides 20%, the short lines provide 10%, and the truck drivers provide 10%, we will reach 100%.

If we can use these other services fully, we will be able to offer 110% of services to the communities.

Resumption and Continuation of Railway Operations
Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

NDP

Chris Charlton Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to a motion that seeks to limit, in a very draconian way, the length of time the House of Commons can deal with a bill that we have not even seen yet. This is not only absurd but it shows contempt for the institution of Parliament, for members of Parliament, for labour laws in this country and for the safety of both locomotive engineers and Canadian rail passengers.

All we know is that some bill will be introduced sometime this afternoon that will be back to work legislation. Therefore, I must focus my comments on the issue in general, rather than the specifics, because we have not yet seen the legislation.

I want to be clear from the outset. New Democrats will not be supporting this draconian measure to end the labour dispute at the Canadian National Railway.

I will begin by laying out the principles behind our position, and it is the principled position. We once again find ourselves in the position where the federal government is violating Canada's international labour obligations by calling on Parliament to end a legal labour dispute. We have a duty, as a country, to honour the conventions and treaties that our governments have signed over the years with both the United Nations and the International Labour Organization.

The current Conservative government is behaving in the same old discredited way that governments in the past have behaved by violating our international obligations to respect the rights of workers.

In the last 25 years, the federal government alone passed 15 pieces of back to work legislation. Oftentimes, this legislation not only forced workers back to work after taking strike action, but also arbitrarily imposed settlements on the striking workers. This makes an absolute mockery of Canada's signature on international labour and human rights conventions and treaties.

It is not like collective bargaining is a flawed process. Eighty-five per cent of the time it works without a work stoppage. It works for both parties.

I want to take a step backward because I suspect some of the viewers who are watching the proceedings in the House right now may not fully understand the background to the current debate, so I will take moment to fill them in.

At issue is the government's intention to end a legal labour dispute at CNR through back to work legislation. I do understand those who are concerned about the economic impact of the strike and the need to get our freight moving. However, we need to understand from the very outset that the collective bargaining process is about two parties. This is a negotiation process whereby two parties try to arrive at an agreement that they will have to live with day in and day out for the term of the agreement.

For the people who work in rail and the people affected by this collective agreement, workplace issues come up from time to time over the course of days, weeks, months and even years and there is only one opportunity for those concerns to be addressed in a democratic fashion, and that is through their elected representatives in the bargaining process. The representatives take the concerns to the bargaining table and, in a meeting of equals, representatives of both labour and management try to resolve their differences. This is a process that is defined by law. It has been defined over a period of decades and, indeed, generations. The rights that are enshrined in the collective bargaining process are rights that people have fought for. They were not just given by a government or by the employer. These were rights that people had to organize and fight for, and sometimes they were terrible fights, in order to achieve that basic opportunity to sit down with the employer, to raise the issues of the day and to resolve those concerns in a democratic fashion.

Usually when there is some kind of dispute in bargaining, the focus of the media, and therefore the public, is automatically on wages and they become the central issue. Yes, wages are often a part of the concern but they are rarely the entire concern. Issues that are negotiated include wages, benefits, working conditions, relationships in the workplace, particularly in terms of how disputes will be addressed, and how concerns will be dealt with. As part of the working conditions, the most important are those of the health and the safety of the people who work in a given environment.

However, when a government comes with ham-fisted back to work legislation, it pushes the democratic process off the table and, instead, it imposes a solution. Yet, when agreements are imposed, whatever the method of the imposition, they often end up being less satisfactory than if they had been negotiated and agreed to by both parties. That leaves unresolved issues to fester, regardless of whether they are issues on the side of the employer or on the side of the workers.

Collective bargaining is a pas de deux. It, is or at least ought to be, a negotiation between two parties that both wield power in the process.

The employer, of course, has a great deal of power in the workplace. Employers decide who to hire, who to fire and who to promote. In addition, employers decide what their product or service will be, how they will manage that product or service and what equipment they will invest in. They decide the advertising and how they will market their products and services.

For people who work for the employer, the only opportunities they have to give their input and to exercise their rights in the workplace is through the collective, through collective bargaining. The power that workers bring to the table is the ability to withhold their labour. That is the counterweight to the immense powers held by the employers. It is the tool that provides the impetus for negotiations at the bargaining table.

When the government steps into that process by bringing in back to work legislation, it undermines the democratic legal rights of the people in the workplace. It is a heavy-handed or, as I said earlier ham-fisted way of forcing a resolution to a legal dispute that ought to be resolved between the two parties at the table.

What is worse, when the government prospectively signals its willingness to proceed with back to work legislation, it removes any incentive for the employer to participate in the bargaining process. That is exactly the situation that has evolved in the current dispute between the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference and the Canadian National Railway.

Having learned from past experience that the Conservative government is not likely to allow a rail strike to continue, CNR has been able to inappropriately use Parliament to abrogate its responsibilities, vis-à-vis the teamsters union, and the right to collective bargaining. It is an absolute disgrace.

I am not sure whether I am more disgusted by CN or by the government for allowing itself to become CN's patsy. There was absolutely no need for this to happen. My goodness, the government gave notice of its intention to table back to work legislation when the strike was less than 12 hours old. How bizarre is that when, in another labour dispute at the Canadian Museum of Civilization and the Canadian War Museum, workers have been on strike for 72 days and the government has idly stood by washing its hands of any responsibility.

Nothing illustrates more clearly the significance of placement in the economy. There certainly is no consistency in the government's action on labour relations.

All through bargaining, CN has been able to use back to work legislation as a bargaining chip in order to move the union off its issues but, thankfully, the teamsters did not care because at stake is nothing less than worker safety and railway safety. I am glad to say that the teamsters did not cave.

A few years ago, Transport Canada released a study highlighting serious concerns in rail safety. Top of mind was the slew of derailments that had occurred. I remember one period in 2007 when there were seven derailments in just over two months.

On January 8, 2007, 24 cars of a 122-car freight train derailed at Montmagny, Quebec, 60 kilometres east of Quebec City. On January 14 of the same year there was a derailment near Minisinakwa in northern Ontario dumping more than 30 cars, one containing paint supplies, into the water.

On February 28, 2007, hydrochloric acid spilled from cars on the CP Rail line that went off the tracks in the Kicking Horse Pass canyon.

On March 1, 2007, a CN freight train derailment in Pickering disrupted VIA service on the Toronto-Montreal-Ottawa corridor and commuter service into Toronto.

On March 4, 2007, grain was spilled near Blue River, British Columbia, two hours north of Kamloops, when 27 cars on the westbound train fell of the track.

On March 10, 2007, rail traffic along CN's main freight line through central New Brunswick was disrupted until the next day by a 17 car derailment in the Plaster Rock area.

On March 12, 2007, 3,000 VIA passengers had to board buses on the first day of the March break after train service in the Toronto-Montreal-Ottawa corridor was disrupted after a CN freight train derailed near the station in Kingston. That was quite a sorry and quite a high profile record for such a short period of time.

Suffice to say that when workers argue that there needs to be improvements to rail safety, they certainly have empirical evidence to support their concerns.

Among the solutions to improve rail safety and security are things like improved maintenance, better track conditions and better rolling stock conditions. Another part of the solution is related to staff. On most trains, which can be anywhere from a few to 100-plus cars, there are two workers. There is an engineer and a conductor. We have two people running a train who are responsible for cars that are 130 tonnes each, in terms of loaded freight cars, and engines that are capable of producing anywhere from 3,000 to 5,000 horsepower.

The safe operation of these trains rests in the hands of two people, the conductors and the locomotive engineers. The engineers are represented by the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference and they are the ones who are on strike against CN. The reason they went on strike was to fight for improved railway safety. CN wanted to raise the monthly mileage cap by 500 miles to 4,300 miles. That would require some locomotive engineers to work seven days a week with no time off. Talk about undermining the safe operations of our railways. The teamsters are determined to resolve these safety concerns at the bargaining table.

Are we here in this House going to deny them the right to resolve issues that put their very lives at risk? What right do we have to do that?

Let us make no mistake about it, the implications of the health and safety issues at stake here are enormous, and not just for the railway workers themselves. They are enormous because health and safety issues in the context of rail travel have the potential to translate into serious threats to the travelling public. Even more broadly, they pose considerable threats with dire consequences in the event that failed health and safety practices result in train derailments and in spills of toxic chemicals. They literally can affect not just families who are living immediately adjacent to rail lines but whole communities that have railways passing through them or running nearby.

These are serious issues. I obviously do not know them as well as the engineers themselves but that is why the process of collective bargaining works so well. The two parties, which know the workplace best and know the issues and concerns best, may come at them from a different perspective in the bargaining process but they have to sit down and hammer those issues out and come to a mutually agreeable solution. That is how we best protect the safety of both workers and Canadians at large.

We all have a vested interest in the outcome of these negotiations and because of that we all have a vested interest in the process for arriving at solutions. The government has tried to minimize the safety impact by focusing almost exclusively on the economic impact of this labour dispute. Yes, the continued transportation of goods is important but it needs to be the safe transportation of goods to have an economic benefit. The economic consequence of a derailment, for example, is profoundly negative and its cost may be measured not just in dollars but in lives.

We have an obligation to mitigate against those circumstances. We cannot sacrifice safety to the bottom line. It is only through collective bargaining that we will arrive at the proper balance. If, through that process, we can address some of the safety and infrastructure concerns of the railway system, then it will be good for the economy too.

In the brief time that I have remaining, I will speak to the issue from one last perspective. CN as a whole used to be a key part of our national identity. It was part of our history, our tradition, our heritage, linking this country together from sea to sea and it was a symbol of our greatness. Sadly, that symbolism and the pride we felt in what truly was a national institution has deteriorated badly since it was privatized and sold off.

I remember when Mr. Gordon Rhodes, who was a long time locomotive engineer and the only survivor of one of the most egregious accidents where two CN employees were killed due to CN's more safety management practices, was at the transport committee in 2007. I remember him saying this in his testimony:

I'm not American, I'm Canadian, and I used to be proud to call my company Canadian National Railroad back in the 1980s. Now I'm not even allowed to do so. I'm supposed to say CNR. What's this?

I would encourage all members of this House to go back and remind themselves of Mr. Rhodes' testimony before they vote on the bill that is before us today. He spoke to what should be important to every member of Parliament here, and that is the safety and the continuation of our rail system and not allowing CN management to decide what the rail system is going to look like. He said:

--CN has gone in the opposite direction. They're very adversarial. I call it the poisoned work environment, because that's what it is. Nobody wants to go to work there. Everybody's counting the days, the months, and the years until they're gone, until they're out of there. That's not the way it was...The way I look at it is this: CN is a big multinational corporation with railways going from Mexico to Canada; they have bought and absorbed many railways into their system, and they're experts at doing that. The problem here is that they absorbed one railway they had no expertise in. They thought they did, but they don't. Their arrogance is what happened, in the sense that they came in and took our GOI, general operating instructions, of probably some 50 years of railroad knowledge on how to run trains on that track, but they were going to do it their way because they wanted it all homogenized. They wanted it all one way, and that was it. They didn't listen to anybody, but just plowed ahead with their system.

Referring to American management, he said, “They're telling us how they're going to run things”, and then he made an impassioned plea to the government and to members of Parliament. He said, “I think it's time you guys tell them how it's going to be run”.

That was part of the message from Mr. Rhodes, the only survivor of one of the many accidents that CN has had. On behalf of the locomotive engineers, he was saying that we have to help them. Communities are being devastated, environments are being destroyed, lives are being lost, and we as parliamentarians have to help.

However, instead of responding to that call to action, the government is saying that it does not care about the employees. It is not going to address the safety issues. It does not care about the communities that are being devastated. It certainly does not care about the shipping problems that happen as a result of the devastation of these derailments, collisions, fires and explosions. It is not going to address any of those issues.

It is going to toss the entire weight of the government behind a plan to simply hand a blank cheque to CN management. That is not good enough. It is not good enough for rail safety in Canada, it is not good enough for protecting labour rights in Canada, and it is not good enough for the NDP in Canada.

I would urge all members in the House to join us in opposing this draconian piece of government legislation, stand in solidarity with the members of the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference, and stand up for the values and principles on which our country was built. It is a vision of Canada that is worth fighting for.

Resumption and Continuation of Railway Operations
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

Kootenay—Columbia
B.C.

Conservative

Jim Abbott Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Cooperation

Mr. Speaker, I want to quickly address a question to my NDP colleague.

Not in this instance but in the future, for industries like rail and grain handling, would she be in favour of final offer binding arbitration which would allow the two sides to go to an independent third party to arrive at a conclusion, so that people like those who own lumber mills and need supplies for Christmas would not be fundamentally put out of business as a result of a strike like this? Would she be in favour of exploring the possibility of final binding offer arbitration?

Resumption and Continuation of Railway Operations
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1:55 p.m.

NDP

Chris Charlton Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am not really sure why the member is asking me a hypothetical question when labour rights are of course enshrined in UN conventions. There are ILO treaties. We have signed on to those laws. Canada is a signatory. This is a government that constantly says it is all about law and order. I would encourage all members of the government to actually stand up for labour laws. Those are laws as well and they cannot just be conveniently ignored by the government.

Resumption and Continuation of Railway Operations
Government Orders

2 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

I must interrupt the debate. The hon. member will have eight minutes remaining in the questions and comments period when we return to this matter.

Veterans
Statements By Members

November 30th, 2009 / 2 p.m.

Conservative

Joy Smith Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, this year Maple Leaf School, located in my riding of Kildonan--St. Paul in Winnipeg, Manitoba, took time to honour Canadian veterans in a very special manner.

I was so proud to be present on November 10 as the principal of Maple Leaf School, Mr. Victor Kuzyk, teacher Brent Willows, and the students unveiled the Lest We Forget Wall of Remembrance.

This historical wall includes pictures, posters and wartime artifacts that will make a lasting impact for generations to come.

The students at Maple Leaf School were motivated by a desire to support a greater understanding of Canada's role in wars present and past, encourage greater appreciation of the sacrifices made by Canada's soldiers, and raise awareness of the impact of war on children and their families.

I want to thank principal Victor Kuzyk, the teachers, and students of Maple Leaf School for their remarkable efforts toward such a noble cause. I encourage all schools across our great nation to follow the example set by Maple Leaf School.

Firefighters
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Jean-Claude D'Amours Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

Mr. Speaker, last Friday, I had the honour of awarding federal Governor General's medals to three firefighters in my riding during a dinner to mark the occasion. Robert Grondin, Laurent St-Cyr and Jean-Luc Michaud were recognized for 20 years of service with the Edmundston fire department.

In addition, Mario L'Italien and Claude Campagna received the provincial fire marshal's medal for 25 years of service.

Firefighters are essential to our communities. Their hard work and desire to help make people feel safer. They have huge responsibilities, but their undaunted courage gives our communities the sense of safety and trust they need.

Once again, I would like to congratulate and, more importantly, thank these five firefighters whose years of service were recognized on Friday.

I have tremendous respect for the work you do. You make everyone in the riding of Madawaska-Restigouche proud.

Thank you for everything you do in our riding.

Montreal Alouettes
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Bloc

Francine Lalonde La Pointe-de-l'Île, QC

Mr. Speaker, in their fifth Grey Cup appearance in six years, the Montreal Alouettes once again won the coveted trophy, crowning them the best team in the CFL after beating the Saskatchewan Roughriders 28 to 27 at the last possible second.

Indeed, with only five seconds left on the clock, the Montreal team, which was losing 25-27, was given another shot at a field goal after its opponent was penalized for having too many players on the field. However unexpected and completely spectacular, that is how the Montreal team came out victorious.

There is no denying that the Alouettes had quite a season, with a record of 15 wins and 3 losses. In addition, nine Montreal players were chosen to play on the CFL 2009 all star team.

On behalf of my Bloc Québécois colleagues, I would like to congratulate all the players and the entire coaching staff, led by Marc Trestman. They have proven, as never before, that it is not over until it is over.