House of Commons Hansard #95 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was air.

Topics

Protecting Air Service Act
Government Orders

11:45 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Lake Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont, AB

Mr. Chair, one question that comes up as we are thinking about this is whether there have been other strikes at Air Canada in the past and whether the government has ever intervened and introduced back to work legislation in the airline industry.

There have been other strikes at Air Canada in the past. In June 2011 there was a three day strike by the customer sales and service agents at Air Canada. Members might remember that the government introduced Bill C-5, an act to provide for the resumption and continuation of air service operations, to end their strike action. However, Bill C-5 was not enacted as the parties reached a new collective agreement that will be in effect until February 28, 2015.

My question for the hon. minister is whether there have been other strikes on top of those in the past and whether the government has ever intervened.

Protecting Air Service Act
Government Orders

11:45 p.m.

Conservative

Lisa Raitt Halton, ON

Mr. Chair, as I mentioned in my opening remarks, indeed since 1984 there have been 35 work stoppages in the air transportation industry. Six of them have been with Air Canada.

The one we were speaking about earlier was the situation involving the pilots in 1998, when there was a 13 day strike. That strike cost Air Canada $300 million according to media reports. It cost the Canadian economy $133 million.

I would ask the opposition, exactly what did the pilots get in return for those 13 days in which they held up the country with the inability to travel? Was it worth the $133 million to our economy? I do not think it was.

Protecting Air Service Act
Government Orders

11:45 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Lake Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont, AB

Mr. Chair, I am reminded by the member for Kenora that Air Canada also services vast regions of Canada, in fact some areas where there is no other option other than Air Canada service.

Could the minister comment on how important Air Canada's service is to remote regions across Canada like the great riding of Kenora?

Protecting Air Service Act
Government Orders

11:45 p.m.

Conservative

Lisa Raitt Halton, ON

Mr. Chair, I can say that if there were to be a work stoppage during the period of time that has been indicated, the March break, there would be no alternate domestic air service to the following places in British Columbia: Castlegar, Nanaimo, Penticton, Sandspit. In Ontario it would be Kingston and Sarnia. In Alberta, Lethbridge and Medicine Hat would have no air service. In Newfoundland it would be Gander. In Nova Scotia it would be Sydney. In New Brunswick it would be Saint John, Bathurst and Fredericton. In Quebec it would be Gaspé and Îles de la Madeleine.

As well, Air Canada provides 70% of the domestic seat capacity in the following airports: Kamloops and Prince Rupert, British Columbia; Baie-Comeau, Montreal and Rouyn-Noranda, Quebec; and Moncton, New Brunswick.

Protecting Air Service Act
Government Orders

11:45 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Lake Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont, AB

Mr. Chair, I am interested in process. We talked earlier about Labour Canada's role. I think it is important for those Canadians who are watching these proceedings at home to get an understanding of what the role of the Minister of Labour is in these labour relations.

Could the minister elaborate on what her role is in this process? Canadians would appreciate it.

Protecting Air Service Act
Government Orders

11:45 p.m.

Conservative

Lisa Raitt Halton, ON

Mr. Chair, I would be pleased to provide an update on the process.

With respect to the machinists, the IAMAW, their contract expired and we received a notice of bargaining in March 2011. Indeed, a notice of dispute came in December 2011. We appointed Madame Louise Otis as the conciliation commissioner in December 2011. The conciliation process worked. Madame Otis was able to get a deal at the table. Unfortunately, in that case the deal was not ratified by the membership. However, she did write in her conciliation report to us that she felt it was a very fair and reasonable deal, that the negotiation was arduous, that the parties were competent at the table, that they reached a deal, and that indeed no new negotiations needed to be commenced because they had exhausted the entire process.

Despite that, we provided an officer from the conciliation services to aid the parties in trying to get back to the table and reach a deal, and they remained able to do so. Unfortunately, it culminated in a strike notice from the union. As a result of that, we are here today introducing legislation in the House. However, it still remains for the parties to reach their own conclusion and their own deal. That is exactly what they should be doing. They should be talking to one another and avoiding this process, a process they will have to deal with should they not find their own way.

Protecting Air Service Act
Government Orders

11:50 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Chair, I have some questions, but I would rather look at Bill C-33 and figure out how we got here.

The hon. parliamentary secretary referred to constituents. I have constituents too and a lot of them work at Air Canada. I know them to be very hard-working. They have accepted a lot of concessions to help the employer, two billion dollars' worth of wage concessions over the last 10 years.

I feel very grateful to all the people because I happen to use Air Canada to travel between my home in British Columbia and here. I will admit to the House that I am terrified of flying. I approach a flight with the same anticipation that most people have when visiting their dentist. It is only on Air Canada that I have any margin of comfort. I feel very good about the safety record, the work of the mechanics, and the work of the pilots. I would like to pay tribute to how hard they work and to express my regret to the Minister of Labour that we are not allowing them to fulfill their collective bargaining rights in a way that allows a fair process.

This is a slender piece of legislation, but it packs a punch. What we are doing with successive pieces of legislation like this is undermining collective bargaining rights in Canada. I am sure the public sector workers are watching what is happening here. As we saw with the back to work legislation for Canada Post, we are seeing a pattern which undercuts labour rights in the country.

Getting to the specifics of this legislation, I do not know that I have ever seen a bill that includes clauses like clause 4 and clause 19. Back to work legislation is usually about a situation where there has been a work stoppage. In this case, we have anticipatory work stoppage legislation. Clause 4 deals with the air service operations. Clause 19 deals with pilots. In both cases, the legislation that we are called upon to pass tonight assumes that if the legislation comes into force and there is no strike or lockout, at that moment there would be a freeze. A strike would not be allowed nor would a lockout be allowed.

That certainly strikes me as unusual in the frame of back to work legislation that we have seen in the House in the 41st Parliament and in labour relations in general. Anticipating a strike or labour action undercuts labour relations. From a management point of view, when management knows that back to work legislation is in the offing, it certainly makes it easier not to work as hard as it should in a collective bargaining relationship to come to terms and to meet each other halfway.

I accept what the hon. Minister of Labour has said, that in a conciliatory process in which a very respected judge was acting as a conciliator, a deal was struck but was rejected by the workers. That is their right. Could we not now use those mechanisms again and give those workers the chance through free and fair collective bargaining rights to choose to accept or reject the terms of an agreement that affects everything about their working life?

I am very concerned as well by the final offer selection provisions in clause 11. I am wondering how we have come to something which is so extremely arbitrary. The hon. member for Cape Breton--Canso has read into the record how the judge felt about the previous arbitration decisions in relation to Canada Post that were forced through the House last June. We see it again here.

Certainly, even at this late hour, could we not see an amendment to this legislation that would allow us to ensure that normal collective bargaining rights are pursued in the choice of an arbitrator?

The hon. parliamentary secretary referred to working with a hockey team in his previous life. In my previous life I did labour law in Halifax with a lovely firm that was then called Kitz, Matheson, Green and MacIsaac. It was the only big downtown establishment law firm that did labour law from the union side. We did a lot of collective bargaining and a lot of arbitration. The first step was always the choice of the arbitrator. The union and management each would put forward a list of names. There would be a process. There would usually be a bit of back and forth in choosing the right arbitrator.

In this instance, we are very rapidly moving to the most strict and draconian approaches to arbitration. It is binding arbitration with final offer selection. On top of that, neither the union nor management will have any input as to who the arbitrator is.

I would ask the hon. Minister of Labour if she could respond to this question: Even at this late stage with the process before the committee of the whole, would the minister be prepared to consider an amendment to allow the union and management to each put forward a list of arbitrators before the selection is made?

I am not sure the minister heard my question. Would she consider an amendment to allow a list of acceptable arbitrators' names from management and the union to be put forward to replace what we now see in clause 11?

Protecting Air Service Act
Government Orders

11:55 p.m.

Conservative

Lisa Raitt Halton, ON

Mr. Chair, I can say that the practice we followed with respect to Canada Post and the Canadian Union of Postal Workers was that we did indeed ask both parties for consultation on arbitrators when we first set out to appoint an arbitrator. We received their advice not once, but twice. I see no reason why we would not take the same approach. However, we do not need to make any amendments to this bill in order for that discretion to be exercised.

Protecting Air Service Act
Government Orders

11:55 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Chair, I would like to thank the Minister of Labour for admitting that it is a good process. I am baffled by the refusal to accept amendments. We are a committee of the whole at this point. I am sure that many hon. members would have some amendments consistent with the purpose of the act. We know that the Conservative benches will ensure this act is passed. It will probably show on the clocks on the same day, but will likely be tomorrow in the wee hours.

We know this is the inevitable conclusion of this legislation. Would the minister not reconsider and allow an amendment, given that it is her preference as she has just stated, to allow names of arbitrators to be put forward? Considering this is something she can do within her discretion, why not ensure it?

There is nothing in the way clause 11 is drafted to suggest that the minister will put forward those options to management and labour.

Protecting Air Service Act
Government Orders

11:55 p.m.

Conservative

Lisa Raitt Halton, ON

Mr. Chair, while I appreciate the request again by the hon. member, the answer still remains no. We will not be agreeing to any amendments to this bill.

Protecting Air Service Act
Government Orders

11:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Chair Barry Devolin

It being 11:59 p.m., pursuant to an order made earlier today, it is my duty to interrupt the proceedings and put forthwith every question necessary to dispose of the committee stage of the bill.

Shall clause 2 carry?

Protecting Air Service Act
Government Orders

11:55 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Protecting Air Service Act
Government Orders

11:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Chair Barry Devolin

All those in favour of clause 2 please say yea.

Protecting Air Service Act
Government Orders

11:55 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Protecting Air Service Act
Government Orders

11:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Chair Barry Devolin

All those opposed will please say nay.