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

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

7:20 p.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to share my time with the member for Jonquière—Alma.

I will begin by saying that this is déjà vu. This is the same old same old. We have seen this before.

It is not surprising that the Conservative government is introducing a bill to force people back to work because this is what it has done since winning a majority. During the lockout ordered by Canada Post, no doubt with the Conservative government’s encouragement, I remember making the following comment in the House: what have the working men and women of Canada done to this Conservative Prime Minister—we cannot name him, but I believe everybody knows who the Prime Minister of Canada is—to make him hate them so much?

Legislation has been passed to send people back to work or to force them into arbitration, but this Conservative government holds the record for saying in advance that, if a collective agreement is not ratified, it will pass back-to-work legislation in the event of a strike or lockout.

My colleagues have put it well: what employer will want to negotiate a collective agreement in good faith when it knows the government has a sledgehammer that it is ready to bring down on workers? The government has never brought the hammer down on employers, only on workers. And it is doing this on behalf of Canadians. What an insult! In Canada, the workers are Canadians.

The only argument we hear from the other side of the House is that we, the NDP, want to deal with the union officials. There is no shame in belonging to a union. It is a fundamental right under Canadian law. The Charter of Rights gives workers the right to belong to a union, but this government has never shown any respect for unions or for workers.

Shame, shame, shame. This government continues to abuse workers' rights, especially by announcing in advance that it will never permit national strikes or lockouts. And yet that is a fundamental right under the Charter of Rights. It is a fundamental right that has been recognized by the Supreme Court of Canada.

The government is the worst law-breaker in Canada. This is unprecedented in the history of Canada. The Conservative government we have before us today is the worst in this regard. It did it with Air Canada, it did it with Canada Post, and now it is doing it with Canadian Pacific. It says there are no other ways to do things.

The member from Manitoba said the train went through her region and people would no longer be able to ship things by rail. I have taken the train from Vancouver to Halifax. It is funny, because I was with CN and I went through Winnipeg. So there are other avenues.

If they are trying to make us believe it is the same in Medicine Hat, I am not sure of that. I will not question it because I would have to check. But I think CN goes through there. It apparently still goes through Winnipeg. And there are also other modes of transportation.

When the government says in advance that it is going to get involved in the negotiations and take the side of the companies and the big corporations, it is to be expected that the companies will not give their employees anything. They are even going to take things away from them.

The Conservative government says that it is doing this for the economy of our country. On the contrary, it is crucifying our country’s economy in the long term. If working people lose their pension funds, and their wages are driven down, who is going to pay the price? The Canadian economy will pay the price.

This is not something that affects just the employers. The government is even attacking the programs working people have, like employment insurance.

They are talking now about 70% of earnings. So let us talk about that 70%. If someone cannot find a job after six weeks and is a frequent employment insurance claimant, they have to accept a job that pays 70% of their previous earnings. If they lose their job again, they will again have to reduce their earnings to 70%. And that will go on until they get down to the minimum wage. If they are thinking about imposing that on fish plant employees, they are mistaken: the 70% formula does not work, because fish plant workers are paid only minimum wage to start with. They are not going to be able to hurt them that way.

When it comes to employment insurance, the Conservative government is telling seasonal workers that if they are not able to find a job, it will find them one, it will grind them down and it will take away their employment insurance. I say that because this is an attack on working people, just like at Canadian Pacific, at Air Canada and at Canada Post.

The Conservatives say that they are doing this because they cannot accept the fact that foreign workers are able to work in Canada, while Canadians are being forced to look for work. They do not understand that when there is work in the fishery, for example, nobody is looking for work, because everyone is working. It is when the fishing is over that these people are out of a job.

The government says that Canadians should go west. The member for Madawaska—Restigouche, who is the Minister of State responsible for the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, says that people from our part of the country prefer to go hunting and receive employment insurance benefits than work. Residents of Madawaska—Restigouche who have spoken to me recently say that they are now ashamed of their member. Rather than standing up for New Brunswick, the member insults his fellow citizens each time he opens his mouth.

The member for Madawaska—Restigouche should remember what happened in the late 1980s, when he made cuts to employment insurance when he was Minister of Employment and Immigration under Brian Mulroney. Canadians booted him out. There were two Conservatives left in power: Jean Charest and Elsie Wayne from Saint John. They were the only two that were left. Remember what happened to the Liberals when they made cuts to employment insurance in 1996: in 1997, they completely lost Atlantic Canada. It is important to remember what happened. Unless we close the fisheries, people from Atlantic Canada will go and work in the west, and foreigners will come and work in our region.

That is the trick that the government has devised. Foreign workers will come and work in the plants because Atlantic Canadians will have headed west. Then the foreign workers will go home and will not get employment insurance. They will not receive benefits. The Conservatives have got things all worked out. Back home, we call that a quiet deportation. In 1755, the Acadians were deported and scattered far and wide both in Louisiana and elsewhere. This is a new way of deporting Acadians, of sending them elsewhere rather than coming up with a proper response and engaging in economic development in our regions.

Rather than doing that, the government is attacking workers. It is shameful. The major centres think that they are the only ones and that the world revolves around them. They do not recognize our country's rural regions. It is a lack of respect. Even debate is limited in the House of Commons. What a great attitude the Conservatives have: they do not even believe in democracy. Their way of doing things is to rush to make us vote at 2 a.m. because they want to get rid of a bill rather than debate it. They are not even prepared to do that.

They have imposed gag orders on over 20 bills. Their undemocratic measures are at an all-time high. This has never been seen before in Canada. It has become embarrassing to be Canadian and to live in our country. It is shameful. It hurts me to say these things because I love my country, but the Conservatives are destroying it. They are destroying our democratic country and the pride we have or had.

I think that the Conservative government will learn its lesson in three years, in 2015. It is coming. If the Conservatives looked at the polls and listened to what people are saying, they would see that they are not upholding Canadian values.

We have the ability to help each other. We should respect workers. The Conservatives are not respecting workers when they allow companies to cut pensions and decrease wages. These workers are Canadians just like the rest of us.

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

7:30 p.m.

Conservative

Larry Miller Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, ON

Mr. Speaker, I was listening to the previous speaker's comments and to his colleague from Newton—North Delta before that. I have had different people in my riding ask me from time to time, after listening to the craziness that happens in the House and some of the bizarre comments, why I listen to that and what keeps me around. I jokingly say sometimes that I just want to see what the heck is going to happen next, because we have just about heard everything on this.

I was talking to some colleagues of mine in agriculture in Saskatchewan and Manitoba on the weekend. Their big fear in Alberta and parts of Saskatchewan is that their seeding is not done, and with CP shut down, there is absolutely no other recourse to get their potash and fertilizer to them. It is as simple as that. They cannot just put it on trucks. The sheer volume does not work.

Therefore, I want to ask the member what he has to say about that. Does rural Canada not matter? Does our food source not matter?

As well, the member seems to think it is a God-given right to have a job. I would have to agree with that; it is great to have a job. However, at the same time, they turn around and kick the daylights out of the people who supply those jobs.

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

7:35 p.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to answer my colleague with a question. The thing is, what do we do with the rights of the workers? Do they have the right to strike? In this case, they are not on strike. It is a lockout. The company knows that the government will support it and that the government will legislate them back to work. Do they not see it at all?

My people at home ask me if I am not tired of listening to the craziness of what the Conservatives are doing every day to Canadians. That is what they ask me. They ask me if I am not tired of seeing the way they are treating Canadians and cutting employment insurance, which is an insurance that belongs to them. The government stole over $57 billion to put—

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

7:35 p.m.

An hon. member

The Liberals did it.

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

7:35 p.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin Acadie—Bathurst, NB

He is saying that the Liberals did it, but who put the bill forward to legalize the stealing of the money? It was the Conservative Party when it came with a new agency and said it would take $2 billion and put it into it forget about the rest. It was the Conservative Party that legalized the stealing, hand in hand with the Liberals.

At the beginning of my speech, I said the member for Madawaska—Restigouche was the one who was cutting with Brian Mulroney at the end of 1989. Let us remember what happened to the Conservative Party. There were two left at the end when Canadians were finished with them. They were sick and tired of listening to them. That is what happens.

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

May 29th, 2012 / 7:35 p.m.

Liberal

Rodger Cuzner Cape Breton—Canso, NS

Mr. Speaker, we have heard from the other side with regard to the legislation that has been presented in this particular case. As we know, this is the fifth time that we have seen back-to-work legislation come from the government. Certainly in past cases, when we look at Canada Post, we saw legislation that came forward that was very restrictive and prescriptive. It really tied an arbitrator's hands. It really tilted the scales toward the company in that particular case. The Air Canada back-to-work legislation was a very similar case.

The minister is trying to shine her halo here by saying that this is a less egregious piece of legislation because the Conservatives have left a lot to the arbitrator. What the Conservatives fail to understand is that it is the actions of the past that have really set the dial. Last week she triggered the fact that she would be coming with back-to-work legislation. That tilted the whole issue toward the company and put the workers at a disadvantage.

I would like my colleague's comments on that.

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

7:35 p.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, it is exactly as I said in my speech. If the minister keeps saying in advance that the government will legislate people back to work because of the economy, that is what will happen.

Imagine what the Conservatives have done in the previous bill they put forward. It was not enough that Canada Post had given an increase of 2%. The Conservatives turned around and put in a decrease through the bill, making it a 1.5% increase. I bet Canadian Pacific thinks it will get that too. It is not enough that it was bringing the pension down by 15%; it probably thinks it could get a 30% decrease.

That is what the government has created with its mentality of hating the working people of our country.

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

7:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

I will have to stop the hon. member there, as his time has expired.

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Jonquière—Alma.

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

7:40 p.m.

NDP

Claude Patry Jonquière—Alma, QC

Mr. Speaker, to begin with, I would like to say that workers have the right to organize, to choose their union and to negotiate. No contract, no work.

The employer also has rights. It has the right to manage its plants, to manage discipline, to manage labour, to organize the work, to negotiate collective agreements and to lock out workers. As we have seen here in the House, the employer has another right, and that is to call on the government to force workers back to work, despite their collective agreement. That is a new right, according to what we have seen in the House since 2011.

Regardless the colour of their party, every elected member of the Government of Canada has to listen to the men and women they represent. Unfortunately, since May 2011, I get the impression that the opposite is happening here, and I sense the contempt for workers.

I am a union worker. I feel the contempt; I feel it in my bones. That is what I am feeling in this House: contempt for workers. Yet they are the ones who keep the government working. They are the ones who contribute, who pay our salaries so that we can make decisions. They are entitled to keep the rights they have today, the rights our parents fought for.

Once again, we are presented with special back-to-work legislation. What a surprise. Were the Conservatives elected by large corporations or by Canadians? Do they think that Canadians gave them a mandate to scare labour organizations? I doubt it.

After what the Conservatives did to the employees of Canada Post, Aveos and Air Canada, now they are getting ready to stick it to the Canadian Pacific employees. The message they are sending to employers is crystal clear: if you have problems with your union, do not negotiate; we will introduce special legislation to force the employees back to work. The continuation and resumption of rail service operations legislation is unhealthy and irresponsible. Do you have any idea of where that will leave us at the end of the day?

What a great way to ruin democracy and humiliate those who want to stand up for their rights. The Conservatives want to make employees more dependent on their employers and to make secure jobs insecure, but at what cost? Let me remind you that we are talking about people who are free, free to choose, free to have the lives they want and free to say yes or no. It is a right people have here in Canada because they fought to have rights.

There is an imbalance of power because of a party that is systematically threatening the gains that unions have won in the past. The vast majority of Canadian workers, unionized or not, enjoy the rights for which workers have fought. No matter what the government says, it has to protect those legitimate rights that are essential to labour peace.

Sometimes, it seems that the government says one thing to voters and then does the opposite. At least that is what we are seeing from the other side of the House. I do not believe for a second that the government is impartial in its decisions. I do not feel that its actions are for the common good. How can it prove me wrong? The corporate tax giveaways give us a very good idea of how they see the common good.

I do not want to say that the Conservatives are acting in bad faith, but right now, their party is showing an intolerable contempt for Canada's low income earners. Their party is insulting the intelligence of those who understand their little game. In addition, the Conservative Party is denigrating unions, which are the source of almost all social movements in Canada. There is nothing to be proud of.

Do you see what is happening in Quebec at the moment? Ask your Quebec colleagues what has caused this crisis and its consequences. Do you not feel things sliding out of control? Always taking the same side is a huge risk. How much is peace worth in financial terms? I ask the question because telling the truth is important. Knowing the consequences, are my Conservative colleagues really going to keep putting social peace at risk in Canada?

Earlier, I heard some hon. members opposite say that the NDP was made up of people who are against everything. The Conservatives say that we are in the workers' camp and that it is too expensive when the country has to be saved. In my riding, factories have been shut down, jobs have been lost, workers have been locked out and plants have been moved to the United States. The cost to the community is in the millions of dollars. No one on the other side of the House has said a word. So the Conservatives have nothing to teach us about standing up for Canadian workers. This is bullshit, and that is putting it politely.

I must certainly take a moment to congratulate the workers at Canadian Pacific. Despite everything, they have maintained rail service to Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver so that Canadians are not the victims of this labour dispute.

Nobody is surprised when the government tries to stir up panic by saying there is an urgent need to restore services, but nobody believes it either. We must condemn this abusive behaviour. Let us not allow this government to destroy social peace.

Surely we all know the story of the boy who cried wolf. I certainly do not need to remind anyone of that. This will end very badly in 2015.

If the government is in such a rush to intervene in workers' lives, let it start by creating good jobs and good working conditions for workers. The job market is collapsing, new jobs are mediocre more often than not, and Canadians’ standard of living is declining before our eyes. Those should be our priorities.

As I have said before, people have the right to be represented, to organize in unions, and employers have rights too. What I have seen in this House since May 2011, with Air Canada, Aveos and so on, it is that the government intervenes when it suits them. It does not intervene when there are job losses, or when plants relocate, even when it could have had something to say about that. Some of our dams and rivers belong to foreign capital interests. That is unacceptable.

The government's “we know best” attitude is insulting. It is insulting because we come from the union community and we are workers. The government should not spit on the workers. We are here this evening because it is the workers who pay our salaries.

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

7:45 p.m.

Conservative

LaVar Payne Medicine Hat, AB

Mr. Speaker, first of all, I am really disappointed in that member in terms of his unparliamentary language here in the House of Commons. I think he owes all parliamentarians an apology and should withdraw those remarks.

Second, I would like to point out that CP Rail is a vital link to the west coast for produce and products leaving Canada and coming into Canada. With this strike there is a huge potential to damage Canada's international reputation as a reliable supplier.

I know that the member is being pulled by the strings of his union bosses. My question to him is this: do the union bosses who are pulling his strings want to bring the Canadian economy to the same level as we see in Greece?

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

7:45 p.m.

NDP

Claude Patry Jonquière—Alma, QC

Mr. Speaker, first of all, I do not need to withdraw my remarks because I insulted no one. I come from the labour community. I have my language. I have my ways of thinking and speaking. I insulted no one. I named no one in this House.

I talked about the Conservative government, which is thumbing its nose at us, belittling us, regarding us with contempt. And I should apologize to them? I said nothing wrong. I gave my opinion. I was elected to represent the workers and to give my opinion. That is how it works, and I will not withdraw my remarks. If my colleague is unhappy, he should come and see me.

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

7:45 p.m.

Conservative

LaVar Payne Medicine Hat, AB

Mr. Speaker, on a point of order, I would appreciate it if you would have the blues checked and ask the member to repeal his comments and apologize to parliamentarians for his use of that type of language here in the House of Commons.

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

7:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

I have to say to the hon. member for Medicine Hat that I did not catch what was said in terms of the complaint, but I would be happy to check the blues and get back to the House as to whether or not the member should withdraw the remarks.

Questions and comments, the hon. member for Scarborough—Agincourt.

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

7:45 p.m.

Liberal

Jim Karygiannis Scarborough—Agincourt, ON

Mr. Speaker, a lot of economies are going into default, and my colleague from the Conservative Party happened to mention Greece. I would like to point out that it is not just Greece; it is also Spain, Portugal, Italy and Ireland.

I know there is passion when we are talking about the workers and the Teamsters, but there are only two teamsters in this. I and my colleague from, I believe, Vancouver could probably start a union.

My question to my hon. colleague is this: does he not feel overwhelmed that the Conservative government, one year after the election when it got a very large majority, is able to do whatever it wants?

I would also like to point out that the Conservatives would not have gotten a majority if it was not for the NDP taking the Liberals down in 2005.

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

7:50 p.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, I do not believe it was the NDP that took the government down; it was Canadians who did that.