House of Commons Hansard #129 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was workers.

Topics

Importation of Intoxicating Liquors Act
Private Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

Conservative

Ron Cannan Kelowna—Lake Country, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I just want to clarify something.

My hon. colleague from British Columbia and her colleagues spoke in favour of the bill. It is important for the industry for this legislation to be passed. If we stop debate now, we could have the vote tomorrow. Otherwise, it is going to take several months. It will drop to the bottom of the order of precedence. Is that correct, Mr. Speaker?

Importation of Intoxicating Liquors Act
Private Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

The Chair does not usually serve the role of clarifying these types of things and it is not really a point of order, but the member does have it right. In fact, we are just actually finished debate on the first hour at third reading and report stage. There is an accommodation of two hours, so what will happen now is that I will read momentarily that this question will go to the bottom of the order of precedence and will make its way back up for the second hour of, again, the combination of report stage and third reading. At that point, the question will be put.

The hon. member for Newton—North Delta will have four minutes remaining for her speech when the House next resumes debate on the question.

The time provided for the consideration of private members' business has now expired, and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the order paper.

The House resumed consideration of the motion.

Act to Provide for the Continuation and Resumption of Rail Service Operations
Government Orders

6:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

The hon. member for Trois-Rivières has six minutes remaining.

He has the floor now.

Act to Provide for the Continuation and Resumption of Rail Service Operations
Government Orders

6:30 p.m.

NDP

Robert Aubin Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will try to pick up where I left off. I said that I would ask the government some questions and ponder some of the issues out loud.

The first issue is the government's faith in Canadians. I was talking about the right to strike. Do I have to point out that striking is a legal and democratic way to exert what I would call pressure on negotiations to formulate a collective agreement? Why not give the parties time to reach an agreement? The government should support negotiations, not tie the parties' hands by interfering with the natural balance of power that is so critical to true negotiation.

Time and the prospect of financial losses for both parties, whether due to a strike or a lockout, help to bring about a quick negotiated settlement. In this case, the government's tendency to almost systematically discredit the negotiation process strongly suggests that it intends to sideline the parties to the dispute.

This interference is an insult to those who, for months, have been working to find a fair and acceptable solution for everyone and to protect the working conditions of Canadian Pacific workers. The government seems to think that labour law is not up to the task. It is short-circuiting the usual dispute resolution process and imposing terms that it alone wants.

Furthermore, I have not heard anyone—either the CP workers or management—asking the government for immediate help to resolve this dispute. The government took it upon itself to interfere in the dispute. This seems to suggest that the government resolutely sides with one of the two parties in any dispute, rather than encouraging or helping the parties to reach a settlement.

Another question that transcends parliamentary procedure, but is basically at the heart of the problem, and one that we must ask the members opposite directly is this: what values does this government espouse? What interests and what development model does it want to impose on Canada?

I listened carefully to the reasons given by the hon. Minister of Labour for introducing this bill for the continuation and resumption of rail service. She said, and I quote, “We are fortunate in our country to have some of the best working conditions in the world.”

I agree with her in part on this, but I would caution the minister and her government. These excellent working conditions did not come as a result of draconian and hasty interventions by the federal government in collective agreement negotiations. Rather, they are the result of numerous negotiations during which both parties agreed that it was important to regard quality of life at work and quality of life in society as essential to progress and prosperity.

Unfortunately, the government and its partisan policies are taking us on a downward spiral by bringing back the spectre of cheap labour and increasing job insecurity.

The excellent working conditions the minister referred to are also the fruit of co-operation between workers, employees and management in our country, with respect for everyone's rights and for the time it takes to reach an agreement.

I would like to emphasize this point. By forcing the debate, the Conservatives are attacking an essential aspect of the functioning of Canada's economy, that is, the trust that the stakeholders need to have in each other.

By hurriedly attempting to resolve a collective bargaining problem, the Conservatives are gradually destroying labour relations at a private company. The victory that the government anticipates by forcing a return to work is in fact a sword of Damocles that will certainly hang over many future negotiations. The government is, little by little, paving the way for the problems of tomorrow, rather than guaranteeing solutions for today.

But let us come back to the question. What is the Conservative government trying to tell us by moving this motion and introducing a bill that hurts Canadian Pacific employees? That it is concerned about Canada's productivity? That it wants to protect Canadian jobs and our economy? We all want these things, but not at the expense of Canadians' and workers' rights.

Economically advanced countries that only consider the productivity of their companies do so to the detriment of workers' conditions and quality of life.

In other words, not everything can be justified by economic considerations, especially not the actions of the government. My colleague from Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie has already highlighted the paradox. Indeed, he said that the Conservative government—which argues all day long in the House and committees in favour of a hands-off approach by the state and non-interference in economic matters—is suddenly in a rush to legislate the moment a company takes its time resolving its internal problems and workers demand rights and make their voices heard.

In their economic theory, have the Conservatives forgotten that workers are an essential and fundamental cog in the economic machine? Why intervene in these negotiations and not when a private company relocates jobs or does not meet its obligations?

I will move on quickly to my conclusion, and I will try to explain why this government is making a twofold mistake by introducing this bill.

To begin with, the government is discrediting the work done by members. We are in this House to build a country, not to force workers to return to work when they are negotiating their working conditions, quality of life and future according to a set of well-known and accepted rules.

The government is making members of the House of Commons play the role of the bad guy. Unfortunately, this is not the first time this has happened.

As a result of this motion, the government will end up poisoning the social climate in Canadian companies. Will management negotiate in good faith in the future, knowing full well that each threat to strike will result in authoritarian interference by the federal government?

Act to Provide for the Continuation and Resumption of Rail Service Operations
Government Orders

6:35 p.m.

Conservative

Brad Butt Mississauga—Streetsville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the comments made by the hon. member for Trois-Rivières, but here is my basic concern about the opposition. Those members do not have a national perspective. They have a very specific perspective in a very finite group of people whom they propose to represent.

CP Rail provides services all across this country. I know that NDP members are no fans of western Canada. We know that quite clearly. They have made that very clear in lots of things they have said. CP Rail provides extremely important services to many areas of western Canada, and when CP Rail is not running, we know we see a significant economic hardship in those areas. I am just wondering if the member might share some of his experience and expertise about how it will affect western Canada if we allow this work stoppage to continue.

Act to Provide for the Continuation and Resumption of Rail Service Operations
Government Orders

6:35 p.m.

NDP

Robert Aubin Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for that question.

Once again, we see the same approach. The basic problem is that the question is being asked in the wrong way. The Conservatives would have us believe that, if they do not intervene, the conflict will go on for ever. But it is quite the opposite.

When parties are left to negotiate without interference, the economic losses suffered both by the strikers and by management mean that the two parties look for a quick settlement that will lead to a win-win situation and will minimize each party's financial losses. But when one of the parties, the employer in this case, knows that the rules are fixed in advance, the debate is totally skewed.

Act to Provide for the Continuation and Resumption of Rail Service Operations
Government Orders

6:40 p.m.

NDP

Charmaine Borg Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member opposite mentioned our international image in her remarks.

I would like to ask the hon. member this: how do bills like this affect our image internationally? Basically, we are telling the companies of the world that they can come here and ride roughshod over the rights of our workers. Everything will go just fine because the government will support them as they do so. Then, when they cannot make a profit anymore, they will be able to close their doors and leave.

I am most concerned about the image that we are promoting overseas. I would really like to hear the hon. member's comments on that.

Act to Provide for the Continuation and Resumption of Rail Service Operations
Government Orders

6:40 p.m.

NDP

Robert Aubin Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member made a great comment.

I obviously do not need to say that Canada's international image has been quite tarnished over the past few years in a number of areas.

Working conditions in Canada have dealt the latest blow to our credibility internationally. We are telling people that they can come and do business in Canada, that the government will be right behind them and that, on top of this, it will provide a cheap and docile labour force. Above all, we are telling them that workers' rights will be highly regulated and that the government will always be behind employers.

I think we are seeing a major shift in labour relations.

Act to Provide for the Continuation and Resumption of Rail Service Operations
Government Orders

6:40 p.m.

Conservative

Joy Smith Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the member for Trois-Rivières.

It costs $500 million a week for this strike to be carried on. We talk about workers. There are workers who are not gaining anything from this strike. Businesses all across our country will suffer and jobs will be lost. The minister in charge of this file has done yeoman's work trying to get a deal done through free bargaining.

How can the member square the fact that many people will be losing their jobs? Why does he not support this legislation and get people back to work? Could he please explain that?

Act to Provide for the Continuation and Resumption of Rail Service Operations
Government Orders

6:40 p.m.

NDP

Robert Aubin Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, on this side of the House, as is the case all around, we are obviously always going to be very sensitive to workers losing their income because of disputes. But once again, the question is not well put.

If the minister had not interfered in the negotiations and said that there was going to be a bill anyway, the issue would have probably been settled, because the company would have had significant economic losses to consider.

Act to Provide for the Continuation and Resumption of Rail Service Operations
Government Orders

May 29th, 2012 / 6:40 p.m.

NDP

Jinny Sims Newton—North Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege to stand in the House and speak on behalf of working people across Canada.

Over the last few hours I have had to listen to debate where I have heard members from across the aisle saying that they are taking this action for Canadians. I want us to stop and reflect on that for a second. Working people in Canada are Canadians, except for the temporary foreign workers who come in right now. It is very hard to sit on this side of the House sometimes and listen to the diatribes that have occurred when people talk about Canadians in such a way that working-class people, whether they are professionals or they work in the service industry, it does not matter where they work as long as they are an employee working for someone else, are almost discounted by my colleagues across the way. If a worker should happen to have the audacity to belong to a union and, therefore, believe in collective bargaining, suddenly he or she is a bigger pariah.

I will take us back to the 19th century for a few seconds when the union movement came into existence. It came into existence because of the abuse of young children and workers by employers. Employers had all the power. People were dying on the job and terrible abuses were happening. Out of that industrial revolution, a kind of a balance emerged. It was the birth of the union movement where workers could get together as a collective and deal with their employer on a little more of a balanced playing field.

However, under the current government, the balanced playing field that has existed on and off for well over a century is being tipped in favour of the employer. I will explain why.

I have yet to see the government table legislation to help the workers in bargaining units, whether it was Air Canada, Canada Post or the Air Canada machinists and pilots. Air Canada pilots were legislated back even before they went out on strike. Now we have the CP teamsters. In every case, an employer is trying to take money out of the pockets of the workers and to dismantle their pensions. I know the government is very fond of attacking pensions, after all, it wants all Canadians to work until they are 67, whether they are able to or not. It has attacked the pensions itself. Therefore, why would I be surprised that the same group sides with employers who want to attack pensions?

Here we have an employer, CP, that makes substantial profits every year, millions and millions of dollars. Despite that, what is it asking their workers to do? It wants them to take a huge cut in their pensions. Do we not actually believe that people have earned these pensions and that they need to live a life of dignity? Should we not be bringing up every Canadian so that they have a pension and they can live a life of dignity? Instead, we have employers who are attacking workers' wages and pensions at the same time as they are making huge profits. I say that is such a shame.

Why would an employer like CP think there is any reason to negotiate? Even during the break week the minister made an announcement saying that when Parliament opens she planned to pass legislation. Can members guess what that does to bargaining? It brings it to a halt, especially on the part of employers who have no interest in negotiating because they have their friends holding a majority in this Parliament and they know they will get exactly what they want, which is another attack on working people.

I find it incredulous that people could sit in this room and say that the minister saying last week that she would be taking action did not have a chilling effect on negotiations. I think we need to accept that and the minister needs to take responsibility for prolonging the negotiations.

On this side of the House, we believe in full, free collective bargaining. I am getting so tired of my colleagues across the aisle talking about a free economy, the marketplace, letting things just go out and letting wages drop because, after all, they just facilitated bringing in, in a fast-tracked process, more foreign temporary workers who, they are saying, employers can pay 15% less. This is an abuse of those who come to work in this country. I believe that if they are good enough to work here they are also good enough to live here. Not only is it an abuse of those workers, but those kinds of policies actually lower the wages for other Canadians. Canadians are already struggling to make ends meet and now, with government intervention here and the changes to how we bring in people from overseas, especially the temporary foreign workers program, we are attacking Canadians from being able to make a liveable wage and to have decent security into their retirement years.

I am so proud of this collection of NDP members of Parliament who stand up for working people who are Canadians. We raise issues that are fundamental to a democracy, conventions that are recognized by the United Nations through the ILO and are recognized in our Charter of Rights and Freedoms. When we stand up to defend full, free collective bargaining rights, I am tired of hearing comments like, “the NDP are not friends of western Canada.”

I come from western Canada. I am from British Columbia and I am the best friend it has, along with the NDP, right now. It is this party that is speaking out for British Columbians and for building a stronger economy that benefits all and does not lead to our resources being shipped out of this country along with the jobs. We have experienced that in B.C. We watch truckloads of logs leave, the logs get manufactured into two-by-fours and then they come back. How much environmental sense does that make? How much economic sense does that make when good paying jobs are taken out of Canada and moved overseas?

The argument that the NDP members are not friends of western Canada is just meant to detract from the real debate in this House, which is whether the Conservatives believe in free collective bargaining, and, obviously, by their actions, they do not.

I want the Conservatives to show me where they have intervened in a dispute and told employers that they were being unreasonable, that they should get back to the table and that it is not right for them to take away the salaries and pensions from employees. The Conservatives do not come out with statements like that. Instead they say that it is all being done to somehow save Canadians.

Right across the country, hundreds and thousands of workers are finding out how they are being saved. Their pensions are under attack and their wages are going down. The unemployment rate is high. As the they are looking at all of this, they do not see much of a salvation in this. What they see is a government that is going out of its way to take punitive action against employees and putting a chill over the whole bargaining process.

This is not right. This is not good for Canada. It is earning us a bad name both internally and internationally. It certainly is not good for our future generation.

We are looking at attracting more people to come to Canada, and we keep hearing from the minister that we are going to need more immigrants, but they are going to look at this and choose other locations.

Act to Provide for the Continuation and Resumption of Rail Service Operations
Government Orders

6:50 p.m.

Oshawa
Ontario

Conservative

Colin Carrie Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, as members know, I represent Oshawa. I have been listening to the ramblings of the NDP, and I actually think these speeches are very good for Canadians because they realize the truth in its leader's statement that he feels that jobs are diseases. In other words, we thought it was just western Canada, but now we have an attack on farmers and on my community of manufacturing. We need car parts to build cars; no parts, no cars, no paycheques, no stimulus to our economy.

The hypocrisy of the NDP members is that they say they are standing up for unions and union jobs. Well in my community, we are standing up for union jobs because my guys need to get to work tomorrow.

With these labour disruptions, they ask internationally how it is being felt. I can say right now that our supply chain in Canada, with these parts, is affecting American plants. We need to get these guys back to work.

We offered 120 extra days of the government's resources to help end this dispute. How long would the NDP allow this disruption to go on before it would intervene and help Canadians in my region of the country get back to work, because we need the jobs?

Act to Provide for the Continuation and Resumption of Rail Service Operations
Government Orders

6:55 p.m.

NDP

Jinny Sims Newton—North Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, we heard it again, talking about the CP workers who are out there saying that all they want to do is negotiate a settlement. I met with them at lunch. Once again, they are not considered Canadians.

Surely in Canada we do not start trampling on some people's rights just to speed things up. Any government that was committed to collective bargaining would allow the bargaining process to work out and it would put pressure on CP to sit down and actually negotiate instead of giving it a get-out-free card, which is what this legislation—

Act to Provide for the Continuation and Resumption of Rail Service Operations
Government Orders

6:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

Questions and comments. The hon. member for Winnipeg North.