Mr. Speaker, allow me first to commend the commitment of my colleague from Gatineau, who introduced the anti-scab legislation, Bill C-257, and who thereby showed his generosity toward and understanding of workers' rights and his dedication to defending them. I would like to congratulate and thank him.
A lot has been said about the anti-scab bill. The hon. member for Acadie—Bathurst spoke about it quite eloquently, as did the Liberal member. They made fine analyses of this bill and the advantages it presents.
I have to say—and it is not said enough—that anti-scab legislation reduces the length of strikes. It also reduces violence on the picket lines and at the employer's facilities. It improves the general mood. If the strike is short and all the people have been respectful for the duration, the mood is far better than at the plant next door where conditions were much worse and more problematic.
This creates balance. It creates balance between the workers and employers in Quebec. This respect and balance in pressure tactics available to each party results in labour peace in Quebec and in British Columbia. This is advantageous both to the employee and the employer.
Everyone wins. In Quebec in the past 30 years, no one has questioned the anti-scab legislation that has existed there all this time. That means we have real labour peace. We have balance. It does not lean to the right of centre or in favour of major industry. That would be a false balance, which is what we currently have in places without anti-scab legislation.
In Quebec, one of the problems is that 90% of workers are under federal jurisdiction and are entitled to the benefits of anti-scab legislation. Some 8% of the workforce in Quebec is under federal jurisdiction and is excluded from these benefits. The Bloc Québécois is working hard for those people in collaboration with all the other stakeholders in Canada. It is for this reason that we have to stop having two classes of workers in Quebec.
On June 6, the Minister of Labour and Minister of the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec made some arguments that did not make much sense. He said there was less investment in provinces that had anti-scab legislation. I do not understand why he said that.
First, the Minister of Labour and Minister of Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec, who is also the member for Jonquière—Alma, voted in favour of this bill. I will give you the date. It was November 5, 1990, and it was Bill C-201, introduced by the member for Bas-Richelieu—Nicolet—Bécancour. He voted for it.
On May 1 of this year, when I asked him in this House, he said that, in Quebec, that was fine, that it was a distinct society. I do not agree with him on the term “distinct society”, but it is what he said. He said there was a tradition in Quebec, an obvious culture in favour of anti-scab legislation, but that, as a minister, he had to consider this under a “Canadian angle.” However, he is now telling us that he will vote against this legislation. It makes no sense for the Conservative Party to vote against legislation that is also beneficial for workers across Canada, and not only in Quebec.
If he considers this under a Canadian angle now that he is a minister, he must then change his mind and vote for this bill. Since we are only at second reading stage, he should at least vote on the principle of the bill to give it an opportunity to be studied in committee. There we could really discuss it. He could invite his witnesses who are saying that strikes last longer.
The member for Beauport—Limoilousuggested that anti-strikebreaker legislation would contribute to increasing the frequency of strikes. This hypothesis was disproven by a researcher named J.W. Budd, who, after reviewing over 2,000 collective agreements in Canada, concluded that there is little evidence suggesting that anti-strikebreaker legislation increases the frequency of strikes.
Those are the Conservative Party's arguments. All of its arguments are bizarre, to say the least.
The minister's first argument that there has been less investment in provinces with anti-strikebreaker legislation was quickly disproven using statistics. He has not brought the argument up again.
I would add that the studies he consulted were conducted by the Fraser Institute and the Montreal Economic Institute. We know these two right-wing think tanks manipulate the numbers until they say exactly what employers want to hear. We have therefore taken these studies and the minister's arguments with a grain of salt. He seems to have done the same, because he has not brought those arguments up again.
On September 22, he came back to the House with a second argument. He said something that is worth hearing again:
Thus, there is no evidence indicating that prohibiting the use of replacement workers has any of the alleged benefits for workers—
Not a single one. Tell that to the millions of workers in Quebec. Tell that to all those who have been on a picket line. Tell that to all those who were on a picket line while replacement workers were crossing it to steal their job, their spot, their salary. Tell workers who must get into debt during a strike because of the presence of replacement workers in their plant that an act prohibiting the use of replacement workers is of no benefit at all. Tell that to workers who, along with their family, are experiencing emotional distress because they do not know where they will find the money to pay next month's rent.
So, when the minister claims in this House that there is no evidence indicating that prohibiting the use of replacement workers has any benefits, he is not credible. We know that he is exaggerating. If he had said that there might be a shred of evidence to that effect, we would have taken his comments into consideration, but he said there is no evidence at all. As we know, such sweeping statements are meaningless, and this is what we thought of the minister's argument.