Protecting Air Service Act

An Act to provide for the continuation and resumption of air service operations

This bill was last introduced in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in September 2013.

Sponsor

Lisa Raitt  Conservative

Status

This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment provides for the continuation and resumption of air service operations and imposes a final arbitration selection process to resolve matters remaining in dispute between the parties.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Votes

March 13, 2012 Passed That the Bill be now read a third time and do pass.
March 13, 2012 Passed That Bill C-33, An Act to provide for the continuation and resumption of air service operations, {as amended}, be concurred in at report stage [with a further amendment/with further amendments] .
March 13, 2012 Passed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Committee of the Whole.

Rail Service Resumption Act, 2015Government Orders

February 16th, 2015 / 12:20 p.m.
See context

NDP

Alexandre Boulerice NDP Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, it saddens me once again today to rise in the House, in the Parliament of Canada, to oppose a bill. I rise as a member of the official opposition to represent the values of the NDP, which is opposing a back-to-work bill for the seventh time since the Conservatives took power in 2006. This government is certainly a repeat offender when it comes to attacking workers, violating their legitimate rights and preventing them from exerting pressure, which includes going on strike.

In 2007 we had Bill C-46 for the continuation of railway operations, so this is not the first time. In 2009 we had Bill C-61 for the continuation of railway operations once again. In 2011 it was Bill C-6 to restore mail delivery. That bill targeted postal workers and letter carriers. Also in 2011 was Bill C-5 to continue air service for passengers. Then we had Bill C-39 and Bill C-33 in 2012, when the Conservatives once again created a power imbalance between the parties. They systematically took the employer's side and took away fundamental rights from unionized workers, who are well within their rights to exert pressure.

I asked the minister a question earlier that I believe is the key issue we are concerned about: do people still have the right to strike and use pressure tactics in Canada today? Does this Conservative government recognize that striking is a legitimate way of expressing the right of association and freedom of collective bargaining? The Conservatives seem to be completely ignoring that aspect, and I will come back to that later. The Supreme Court's recent decision has once again upheld this right that the Conservatives have been flouting, year after year, in Canada.

We have reached a point where workers have to ask themselves whether they will be bothering anyone if they exercise their right to strike. Will the government systematically intervene and break the rules to give the employer more power and additional arguments? The situation is always the same. If the employer knows for sure that it does not really have to reach an agreement because its friends in the Conservative government will intervene, violate rights and prevent its workers from striking, then what incentive does the employer have to negotiate in good faith and try to find a solution? That is the major problem.

They should give negotiation a chance.

We have a Conservative government that is always on the side of the employers and never on the side of the workers of this country. Workers have a fundamental right to exert economic pressure and strike if they need to in order to force employers to recognize problems and find solutions.

The minister just said that a negotiated deal is always better than an imposition of anything. Why is she imposing back to work legislation again and again? It is the seventh time that the Conservatives would do that since they were elected in 2006. It is a bad habit that they have; they take a side every time and break the balance of power between the two parties. We are saying to give the workers a chance to negotiate and to exert their rights.

The Minister of Labour just said that the recent decision of the Supreme Court had nothing to do with the right to strike. I contradict that. I have a quote from a Supreme Court judge in that decision from a few weeks ago. Judge Abella wrote the following:

Where good faith negotiations break down, the ability to engage in the collective withdrawal of services is a necessary component of the process through which workers can continue to participate meaningfully in the pursuit of their collective workplace goals. In this case, the suppression of the right to strike amounts to a substantial interference with the right to a meaningful process of collective bargaining.

This is exactly what the decision of the Supreme Court is about. It is about the fundamental right of workers to exert some pressure on an employer to improve their working conditions.

If those workers are refused the right to strike, that is an interference of their fundamental rights. This is exactly what the Conservative government is doing, again and again.

It is a sad day. The right to strike in this country is under attack. Unions were considered illegal organizations before 1872. We are asking whether the government wants to go back to that point in time. Every time that it can crush workers and their unions, the government does it systematically. It has done it with Bill C-525, Bill C-377, and Bill C-4, other attacks on health and safety issues.

It is a sad day for democracy. It is a sad day for the workers of this country. It is a sad day for the labour movement. Workers can count on the NDP to defend their rights because we will protect the freedom of negotiation and collective bargaining. This is a value that we on this side of the House cherish and care about. Workers know that in a few months they will have the opportunity to have the first social democrat, pro-union, pro-worker, government in this country. It is coming.

I would like to reiterate that the labour minister told us that the Supreme Court's recent decision had nothing to do with exerting economic pressure or the right to strike. However, Justice Abella indicated in the ruling given a few weeks ago that the suppression of the right to strike interferes with the right to a meaningful process of collective bargaining, a process that provides an opportunity to get results.

In this case, it is extremely dangerous for the entire labour movement and for all workers to have a government that systematically takes the employer's side and tramples on workers' rights.

It is critical with the CP issue, and when there is a threat of back-to-work legislation hanging over their heads, to ask why the employer would negotiate in good faith. The employer knows it has good friends in power in Ottawa. The government will be on the employer's side and will force workers to go back to work. There is no reason for the employer to negotiate and look for a compromise.

Our concern is also the safety issue that is on the table for Canadian Pacific workers. It is a safety issue for everybody in this country: for the workers, first and foremost, of course, but also for everybody else. It is a question of the hours of work being too long, and extreme fatigue. We are talking about conductors who are driving freight trains that can be four kilometres long. We can imagine the consequences if the conductor is too tired to be aware of the dangers or everything that is going on.

This is not only the vision of the union. It is a problem that has been recognized by Transport Canada, and even by the companies. Transport Canada's own analysis of CP and CN employee scheduling records, from six different rail terminals across Canada, concluded that on the timing and length of each shift, assigned through an unpredictable on-call system, extreme fatigue was rampant.

In 4% of cases, employees were already extremely fatigued at the start of their shift because they did not have enough hours to sleep. It is a shame.

The government is not acting to correct that situation. Canadians should know that their safety is being put at risk by the government. We want that to change.

Forty-five percent of employees became extremely exhausted during work, and nearly all, 99%, were fatigued at least once during a month.

It was the same problem, the same issue, three years ago when employees of CP went on strike for a couple of days. After that, of course the Conservative government came here to vote on back-to-work legislation. The workers at that time were promised that the situation would be fixed: “Do not go on strike, we will negotiate and fix it.”

However, three years later, it is the same story. The same problems are still there. Extreme fatigue is still a problem for members of the Teamsters who are working for CP. Nothing has changed. We are back here again in the House of Commons, talking about back-to-work legislation.

My guess is that in three years we will be back again, because the issue will still not have been solved. There is no incentive for CP to solve the problem. The Conservatives are not helping. The Minister of Labour is not helping.

I think it is worth repeating, because the main issue in dispute here is not that workers want higher pay or want to extort more money from their employer. This is not about money. Incidentally, Canadian Pacific is an extremely profitable company. It has nothing to complain about; business is good. The discussions and debates are really about a matter of public safety. People need to be aware of that, because this is about the problem of too much overtime and the fatigue this causes. Canadian Pacific workers, the train operators, are not getting the rest they need, which leads to extreme fatigue.

What do the workers want? To be able to stop working and go home after 10 hours of work. All they are asking for is to not work more than 10 hours. What is this, the 19th century? Right now, train conductors have to work up to 12 hours straight before they can get a real rest. This is 2015; this is shameful. This Conservative government is doing nothing. In fact, it is actually helping rail companies perpetuate this practice.

Consider the potential consequences if a conductor driving a four-kilometre-long train is tired, does not have the necessary reflexes, and is unable to read the terrain or the dangers up ahead. Recent tragedies have shown us how important rail safety is. Everyone needs to know that this is a public safety issue and that the Conservatives are doing nothing about it.

A few minutes ago, I said that three years ago, CP workers, Teamsters members, went on strike for a few days on the issue of fatigue on the job and lack of breaks. The Conservative government forced them back to work. They were told not to worry, that this would be resolved, that there would be negotiations and recommendations would be made. Nothing was done. Today, in 2015, three years later, these same workers are going back on strike on the same issue of fatigue at work because nothing has been resolved. Now, we have another bill that is going to force them back to work again.

Should we allow the Conservatives to remain in power, I would not be surprised if people have to deal with a CP strike in three years. Unfortunately, if the Conservatives are still in power, they will again force them to go back to work. However, even Transport Canada recognized the issue of workplace fatigue for train conductors. It is not the Teamsters, the union, the CLC, but Transport Canada that is talking about this. Investigations of six different train terminals across the country led Transport Canada to conclude that the problem of extreme fatigue was rampant across Canada. In 4% of cases, employees are even extremely fatigued at the start of their shift, at the start of their work day, because they often do not get enough rest between two shifts. Fully 45% of employees are extremely tired or even exhausted while on the job. Forty-five per cent. Almost everyone, 99% according to Transport Canada, is tired at least once a month.

That has an impact on the workers. Obviously, it is bad for their health, their family life and their work. It puts everyone at risk.

The NDP does not want train conductors to experience fatigue at work. That is basic and straightforward. We do not understand why the Conservatives are still refusing to resolve this issue.

Even our neighbours to the south, the United States, where private enterprise is king and people despise regulations, have more regulations governing hours of work for rail company employees than we do. That is bizarre.

Why have the Conservatives never managed to fix this problem? We do not understand, but it puts huge swaths of our communities at risk.

Over the past five years, there have been at least seven accidents that, thankfully, did not cost any lives, but that happened because train conductors were tired at work. This is a real problem.

We have to find a solution, but we will not find a solution by preventing workers from exercising their right to take job action or go on strike. We know that because this is like groundhog day: it is the same old story over and over again.

I want to emphasize the fact that it is a real problem. The extreme fatigue of CP workers is real. Transport Canada has revealed that in the last five years, at least seven accidents or incidents were caused by fatigue of drivers or conductors of those trains. It is a real problem, but the government has no solution. Its only way to act is always ideological, always against unions, always against workers and against the safety of Canadians.

It is really sad. It is another case of the Conservatives going against international law. There is a labour organization in Switzerland that recognized that the right to strike is a fundamental right in modern societies. Once again, the government is going against the last decision of the Supreme Court and against international law.

On this side of the House, we think that workers can organize, defend their rights, and improve their working conditions. It is not the job of the government to oppose that, because it helps to build better communities. We always hear the Conservatives talk about the middle class and how they will defend the little guys of the middle class, but the middle class is, for the most part, a creation of the labour movement in this country and in all countries. Without the labour movement we would have no middle class.

If we want to defend the middle class, we must give the workers the tools to negotiate, to gain something in collective agreements, and to make sure that they are working in safe places. We must make sure that we do not put the safety of citizens of this country at risk.

Not only is the current federal government going against the Supreme Court's recent decision in the Saskatchewan case, but it is also going against regulations of the Geneva-based International Labour Organization, which considers the right to strike and the right to free collective bargaining to be fundamental.

However, this is not surprising coming from an extremely ideological Conservative government that always responds in the same way when Canadian workers try to exercise their rights and improve their working conditions. This government pulls out the big guns and beats them back, telling them to shut up and get back to work. It does not want to listen to them; they are annoying.

What is important to this government is that companies continue to rake in profits, regardless of how or why and regardless of the rules, even if it makes people sick.

The Conservatives often like to say they are standing up for the middle class. However, the middle class is mainly a creation and a consequence of union struggles by workers who got organized, defended themselves at their workplace and negotiated better collective agreements.

If we are talking about the middle class, we must also talk about the tools that workers created to improve their situation. The NDP will always be there to stand up for workers and their families, for workplace health and safety and for public safety.

Unfortunately, again today, we see that the Conservative government is violating workers' rights and putting public safety at risk. I hope that all of us in the House will oppose this back-to-work bill—yet another one—and stand up not only for workers, but also for the middle class and public safety.

Extension of Sitting HoursGovernment Orders

May 21st, 2013 / 12:05 p.m.
See context

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I apologize for interrupting my colleague just at the beginning of his speech on the justification for the motion that he has just presented to the House, but we have a point of order that we need to raise because I think it establishes a couple of important things for you, as Speaker, to determine before we get into the context and the particulars of this motion.

Specifically, I will be citing Standing Order 13, which says:

Whenever the Speaker is of the opinion that a motion offered to the House is contrary to the rules and privileges of Parliament, the Speaker shall apprise the House thereof immediately, before putting the question thereon, and quote the Standing Order or authority applicable to the case.

This is the standing order that we cite, because we have looked at the motion the government has presented here today with some notice given last week.

This motion goes against the Standing Orders and certainly the spirit of Parliament. The government is not allowed to break the rules of Parliament that protect the rights of the minority, the opposition and all members of the House of Commons who have to do their jobs for the people they represent. This motion is very clearly contrary to the existing Standing Orders.

I have some good examples to illustrate this. In my opinion, there is no urgency that would justify the government's heavy-handed tactics to prevent members from holding a reasonable debate on its agenda. I say “agenda”, but for a long time now it has been difficult to pin down what this government's agenda is exactly. This is nothing new.

The motion comes to us today at a difficult time, but just because the government held a brief caucus meeting and is facing numerous problems and a few scandals, it is not justified in violating the Standing Orders of the House of Commons. No one would accept those excuses. There is no historical basis for the government to use the Standing Orders in this way. That does not work.

There are a few important things we need to point out. One is that it behooves us to have some explanation of what this motion actually does. For those of us who do not intimately follow the rules and history of Parliament, it can be quite confusing not in terms of the intention of what the government has read but certainly in the implications. It needs some translation, not French to English or English to French, but translation as to what it actually means for the House of Commons. That is why we believe a point of order exists for this motion.

The motion essentially would immediately begin something that would ordinarily begin in a couple of weeks, which is for the House to sit until midnight to review legislation. This is somewhat ironic from a government that has a bad history with respect to moving legislation correctly through the process and allowing us to do our work, which is what we are here to do on behalf of Canadians.

I am not alone in seeing that the government has shown the intention of having some urgency with respect to 23 bills, 14 of which have not even been introduced since the last election. Suddenly there is great urgency, when in fact it is the government that has set the agenda. The urgency is so great that it has to fundamentally change the rules of how we conduct ourselves in this place in response to an urgency that did not exist until this moment.

One has to question the need. Why the panic? Why now, and why over these pieces of legislation? Are they crucial to Canada's economic well-being? Is it to restore the social safety net that the government has brutalized over the last number of years? What is the panic and what is the urgency?

Context sets everything in politics, and the context that the government exists under right now is quite telling. Every time I have had to stand in this place raising points of order and countering the closure and time allocation motions that the government uses, I am often stating and citing that this is a new low standard for Parliament. I have thought at times that there was not much more it could do to this place to further erode the confidence of Canadians or further erode the opportunity for members of Parliament to speak, yet it has again invented something new, and here we are today debating that motion.

That is why we believe that Standing Order 13 needs to be called. It is because it is very clear that when a motion is moved that is contrary to the rules and privileges of Parliament—which is what I would underline, as it is the important part—the Speaker must involve himself or herself in the debate and ask that the debate no longer proceed.

The privileges of members of Parliament are not the privileges that are being talked about by our friends down the hall to falsely claim money that did not exist or privileges of limo rides and trips around the world. The privileges of Parliament that speak constitutionally to the need for Parliament are that members of Parliament have the opportunity to scrutinized and debate government bills.

Just before the riding week, we saw the government introduce another time allocation on a bill that had received exactly 60 minutes of debate. Somehow the Conservatives felt that had exhausted the conversation on a bill they had sat on for years, and suddenly the panic was on. We are seeing this pattern again and again with a government that is facing more scandal.

I was looking through the news today. Every morning I start my day with the news and we consider what we should ask the government in question period. There are some days when the focus can be difficult and one may not be sure what the most important issue of the day is. However, the challenge for us today as the official opposition is that, as there are so many scandals on so many fronts, how do we address them all within the short time we have during question period or in debate on bills.

I listened to my friend for Langley, who has been somewhat in the news of late on his attempt to speak on issues he felt were important to his constituents. We saw him move a new private member's bill today. He withdrew the former bill, and now he is moving one again. The New Democrats will support the bill going to committee for study because we think there are some options and availability for us to look at the legislation and do our job.

Whether it is muzzling of their own MPs and the Conservatives' attempt to muzzle all MPs in the House of Commons, or using private members' bills to avoid the scrutiny that is applied to government legislation, and one important piece of that scrutiny is the charter defence of the legislation and so, in a sense, the Conservatives are using the back door to get government legislation through and move their agenda in another way, or the omnibus legislation, which has received so much controversy in Canada as the government has increasingly abused the use of omnibus legislation, or the F-35 fiasco, or the recent Auditor General's report, or the former parliamentary budget officer who was under much abuse and the new Parliamentary Budget Officer who has asked for the same things he did, or infamously, prorogation, time and time again the pattern is the same. The government has complete disdain for the House.

Whether it be the scandals in the Senate, or the China FIPA accord, or the recent problems with the Prime Minister's former chief of staff, or the employment insurance scandals, or the $3 billion missing, or the 300,000 jobs that have not been replaced, the government keeps trying to avoid proper scrutiny out of embarrassment. However, the House of Commons exists for one thing and one thing alone, which is to hold the government to account.

The government will make some claims that the urgency right now is because there has not been enough progress on legislation. Therefore, the Conservatives have to hit the panic button and would have the House sit until midnight, which has consequences beyond just being a late night, and I will get into those consequences in a moment because they support our notion that it infringes upon the entitlements of members of Parliament to debate legislation properly.

The Conservatives' record shows, and this is not speculation or conspiracy, that when they ram legislation through, they more often than not get it wrong. That is not just expensive for the process of law making, but it is expensive for Canadians. These things often end up in court costing millions and millions of dollars and with victims of their own making. The scandal that exists in the Senate is absolutely one of their own making. The Prime Minister can point the finger where he likes, but he appointed those senators.

Specific to the point of order I am raising, this motion would lower the amount of scrutiny paid to legislation. It would allow the government extended sittings, which are coming in the second week of June anyway, as the Standing Orders currently exist, to allow the government to do that, but the Conservatives want to move the clock up and have more legislation rammed through the House.

Also, as you would know, Mr. Speaker, the order of our day includes concurrence reports from committee, which allow the House to debate something that happened in committee which can sometimes be very critical, and many are moved from all sides. However, they would not get started until midnight under the Conservatives' new rules. Therefore, we would study and give scrutiny on what happened at committee from midnight until two or three o'clock in the morning.

As well, emergency debates would not start until midnight. Just recently we had a debate, Mr. Speaker, that your office agreed to allow happen, which was quite important to those implicated. We were talking about peace and war and Canada's role in the world. It was a critical emergency debate that certainly went into the night. However, the idea is that we would take emergency debates that the Speaker's office and members of Parliament felt were important and start them at midnight and somehow they would be of the same quality as those started at seven o'clock in the evening.

The scrutiny of legislation has become much less important than the government moving its agenda through, which is an infringement on our privilege as members of Parliament. The Conservative's so-called urgency, their panic, is not a justification for overriding the privileges that members of Parliament hold dear.

As for progress, just recently we moved the nuclear terrorism bill through, Bill S-9.

We also had much debate but an improvement on Bill C-15, the military justice bill, to better serve our men and women in the Forces. The original drafting was bad. The Conservatives wanted to force it forward and we resisted. My friend from St. John's worked hard and got an amendment through that would help those in the military who found themselves in front of a tribunal.

We have the divorce in civil marriages act, which has been sitting and sitting. It would allow people in same-sex marriages to file for and seek divorce. All we have offered to the government is one vote and one speaker each. The government refuses to bring the bill forward and I suspect it is because it would require a vote. It is a shame when a government resists the idea that a vote would be a good thing for members of Parliament to declare their intentions on, certainly something as important as civil liberties and rights for gay men and women.

I mentioned earlier why, in the infringement of this privilege, it causes great harm and distress not just to Parliament but to the country.

I asked my team to pull up the list of bills that were so badly written that they had to be either withdrawn or completely rewritten at committee and even in the Senate which, God knows, is a terrible strategy for any legislation.

There was the infamous or famous Bill C-30, the Internet snooping bill, which the Minister of Public Safety said something to the effect that either people were with the government or they were with child pornographers, which may be an example of the worst framing in Canadian political history. There has probably been worse, but that was pretty bad. The Conservatives had to kill the bill.

We have also seen Bill C-10, Bill C-31, Bill C-38 and Bill C-42, all of these bills were so badly written that oftentimes the government had to amend them after having voted for them. After saying they were perfect and ramming them through, invoking closure and shutting down debate, the Conservatives got to committee and heard from people who actually understood the issue and realized the law they had written would be illegal and would not work or fix the problem that was identified, and so they had to rewrite it. That is the point of Parliament. That is the point of the work we do.

We have also seen bills that have been challenged at great expense before the courts. Former Bill C-2, the tackling violent crime act, with huge sections of the government's main anti-crime agenda, was challenged and defeated in court.

Bill C-38, arbitrarily eliminating backlog for skilled workers, was challenged and defeated.

Bill C-7, Senate term limits, was after years just now deferred to the Supreme Court. It is called “kicking it down the road”.

Also, there are Bill C-6, Bill C-33 and others, and there are those that are being crafted and debated right now that are going to have serious problems.

The essential thrust of our intention is in identifying the rules that govern us, and specifically Standing Order 13. The government has time and again talked about accountability before the Canadian people and talked about doing things better than its predecessors in the Liberal Party, the government that became so arrogant and so unaccountable to Canadians that the Conservatives threw it out of office. History repeats itself if one does not learn true lessons from history.

As I mentioned, Standing Order 27(1) already exists, and it allows the government to do exactly what we are talking about, but not starting until the last 10 sitting days. The Conservatives have said that there is so much on their so-called agenda that they have to do this early, allowing for less scrutiny, allowing for emergency debates to start at midnight, allowing for concurrence debates that come from committees to start at midnight and go until two, three or four o'clock in the morning.

This is contrary to the work of parliamentarians. If the Conservatives are in such a rush, why do they not negotiate? Why do they not actually come to the table and do what parliamentarians have done throughout time, which is offer the to and fro of any proper negotiation between reasonable people?

We have moved legislation forward. My friend across the way was moving an important motion commemorating war heroes. We worked with that member and other members to ensure the bill, which came from the Senate, made it through speedy passage.

Parliament can work if the Conservatives let it work, but it cannot work if they keep abusing it. Canadians continue to lose faith and trust in the vigour of our work and the ability to hold government to account. We see it time and again, and I am sure, Mr. Speaker, you have as well, in talking to constituents who say that they are not sure what goes on here anymore, that it just seems like government will not answer questions, that everyday they ask sincere and thoughtful questions and the Conservatives do not answer. Bills get shut down with motions of closure.

Let us look at the current government's record.

Thirty-three times, the Conservatives have moved allocation on legislation, an all-time high for any government in Canadian history. Through war and peace, through good and bad, no government has shut down debate in Parliaments more than the current one.

Ninety-nine point three per cent of all amendments moved by the opposition have been rejected by the government. Let us take a look at that stat for a moment. That suggests that virtually 100% of the time, the government has been perfectly right on the legislation it moves. All the testimony from witnesses and experts, comments from average Canadians, when moving amendments to the legislation before us, 99.3% of the time the government rejects it out of hand. It ends up in court. It ends up not doing what it was meant to do.

Ten Conservative MPs have never spoken to legislation at all. I will note one in particular. The Minister of Finance, who has not bothered to speak to his own bills, including the omnibus legislation, Bill C-38 and Bill C-45, which caused so much controversy. He did not bother to stand and justify his actions. I find it deplorable and it is not just me, Canadians as well, increasingly so.

This is my final argument. We cannot allow this abuse to continue. This pattern has consequences, not just for what happens here today or tomorrow, but in the days, weeks, months and years to come and the Parliaments to come. If we keep allowing for and not standing up in opposition to bad ideas and draconian measures, we in a sense condone them.

We say that Parliament should become less irrelevant. We think that is wrong. We think what the government is doing is fundamentally wrong. It is not right and left; it is right and wrong. When the government is wrong in its treatment and abuse of Canada's Parliament, that affects all Canadians, whatever their political persuasion. We built this place out of bricks and mortar to do one thing: to allow the voice of Canadians to be represented, to speak on behalf of those who did not have a voice and to hold the government of the day to account. Lord knows the government needs that more than anything. It needs a little adult supervision from time to time to take some of those suggestions and put a little, as we say, water in its wine.

It has the majority. This is the irony of what the government is doing. In moving more time allocation than any government in history and shutting down debate more than any government in history and using what it is today, it speaks to weakness not strength. The Conservatives have the numbers to move legislation through if they saw fit, but they do not. They move legislation, they say it is an agenda and they hold up a raft of bills.

Air CanadaAdjournment Proceedings

June 14th, 2012 / 11:40 p.m.
See context

Simcoe—Grey Ontario

Conservative

Kellie Leitch ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development and to the Minister of Labour

Mr. Speaker, this is an historic evening. The government was successful in passing Bill C-38, an important piece of legislation for the Canadian economy, creating jobs and long-term prosperity for the country.

The member opposite accuses the government of reckless meddling in the Air Canada negotiations. With all due respect, if the hon. member had been paying attention during the debates over Air Canada, he would know that we went over the long process of conciliation and mediation that we went through with Air Canada in great detail.

We conscientiously and methodically followed the steps set out in the Canada Labour Code. This took time and effort. We exhausted all other avenues before we considered pre-emptive legislation to avert a work stoppage.

There was nothing reckless about our decision to bring forward Bill C-33. As we said many times, it was a last resort. We moved forward because putting forward this legislation meant protecting Canadian jobs and protecting Canadian citizens.

In the debates over Bill C-33, we presented this to the House with our projection of how costly a work stoppage at Air Canada would be, not just to the companies and unions but also to our economy.

We talked about the impact upon the travelling public, especially to families who depend upon Air Canada and do not have access to alternative carriers. We reminded the House that many Canadians were not parties to this labour dispute and that they would not have any way of affecting the outcome but would suffer the consequences of a work stoppage.

When we used this legislation to prevent a work stoppage at Air Canada, I know we did the right thing for Canadians by ensuring we were protecting air services, protecting jobs and protecting the Canadian economy.

Given all the risks associated with this situation, it would have been reckless not to bring forward Bill C-33.

Continuation and Resumption of Rail Service Operations LegislationGovernment Orders

May 28th, 2012 / 1:45 p.m.
See context

Simcoe—Grey Ontario

Conservative

Kellie Leitch ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development and to the Minister of Labour

Mr. Speaker, I am here today to ask the House to support the quick passage of an act to provide for the continuation and resumption of rail service operations.

As the House will recall, last June there was a three day strike by Air Canada's customer sales and service agents. I am glad to say that it was resolved by the parties, and the harm to Canadians was limited.

In June of 2011, our government introduced and passed the Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act because of the economic importance of reliable mail delivery.

Because the government took action, Canadian workers and businesses, as well as citizens, were spared the hardship that a prolonged interruption in mail would have caused. In March, the government passed an Act to Provide for the Continuation and Resumption of Air Service Operations to prevent a work stoppage at Air Canada involving the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers and the Air Canada Pilots Association. This legislation protected the Canadian economy and the public.

Today, we are again faced with a work stoppage that could do enormous damage to our economy. Once again, we have to take measures to protect our national interests in this period of economic uncertainty.

Talks have failed to result in a new collective agreement between Canadian Pacific, CP Rail, and the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference, TCRC, which independently represents the running trades employees and the rail traffic controllers.

The work stoppage at CP Rail is causing confusion and doubt where stability and certainty are needed in our recovering economy. Stability and certainty are essential to keeping Canada in business. If my hon. colleagues were to ask their constituents, as I have asked mine, or if they were to ask almost anyone in Canada right now, they would hear what I have been hearing as well, that we cannot afford this work stoppage because the risks are too great. As parliamentarians, we have a responsibility to act. Therefore, we have to take a stand for Canada's economy.

Like other industrialized economies around the world, Canada has faced challenging economic times. Our economy has weathered the global storm well. Our government is proud of its record for sheltering Canadians from the worst effects of the downturn and laying the foundation for a strong recovery. We all read the papers and know that our country is not immune to the changes in the world economy. There could be more turbulence. As of April 2012, our unemployment rate was 7.3%, a definite improvement from last year.

We need to be careful if we are to maintain our progress and promote economic growth. We cannot afford to have major labour disruptions. We have so much potential. A labour stoppage in any key sector of our economy would be a serious impediment to our growth and recovery. A work stoppage that detrimentally affects a major freight transportation sector is no exception. Rail is a vital cog in keeping Canada among the top performing world economies. Trade represents 35% of our GDP. In Canada, the rail transport service contributes significantly to the Canadian economy.

Let me provide some facts to make the point of how vital rail services and shipping are to the Canadian economy.

A 2009 report prepared by the University of Toronto's Rotman School of Management estimates that four key Canadian bulk shipping industries, oilseed and grain farming, coal mining, wood products manufacturing, and pulp and paper and paper products manufacturing, contribute over $81 billion to Canada's GDP. These industries also account for nearly a million jobs.

The rail-based transportation system in Canada is complex and interconnects a range of stakeholders, such as shippers, terminal operators, transloaders, ports, shipping lines and trucks, which are all part of a very competitive supply chain. Problems occurring in one part of the supply chain can affect the stakeholders across it. An effective supply chain is critical to meeting the government's objectives related to strategic gateways and trade corridors, such as the Asia Pacific gateway, and is key to continuing our country's high economic success.

The Minister of Labour has heard from numerous stakeholders who are urging the government to ensure that this strike does not continue for any prolonged period of time. I would like to read just a few quotes from some of the correspondence that she has received from stakeholders.

The president and CEO of the Mining Association of Canada wrote that, in the minerals and metals sector, experience has shown that a rail stoppage impacts the ability of companies to bring essential inputs to their mines and smelters, and to move finished products and byproducts to their destinations. The association requested that the government take action to head off this potential work stoppage before it damages the economy.

The Association of International Automobile Manufacturers of Canada and the Canadian Vehicle Manufacturers' Association jointly wrote, “CP Rail plays a vital role in the shipment of both parts and components into Ontario vehicle manufacturing facilities, as well as a significant role in the shipment and distribution of finished vehicles from ports of entry to local dealerships across the country...The integrated North American auto industry is presently experiencing a positive but fragile economic recovery.” Any disruption to CP Rail service will have an immediate and dramatic impact on its collective membership and their operations in Canada.

I can tell members that the Honda plant in my riding definitely reiterates this. We have a challenge ahead of us if we do not get the rail moving.

The Western Grain Elevator Association wrote that “this work stoppage will have a significant impact on the grain industy. Many of our elevator locations are serviced only by CPR. In the event of a work stoppage, these elevators will have no options available to them in the transportation of grain products. This will lead to the inability to supply our international customers and prohibit producers from delivering to those facilities. If we cannot at the very least move this product in a timely way to our customers, the associated lost opportunities and added costs will be significant.”

Finally, the Forest Products Association of Canada wrote to the minister and outlined the following:

As most of the industry’s mills are located in remote areas where rail service is the only viable transportation mode, other forms of ground transportation are either too costly or unavailable to provide our companies with relief, making our sector particularly vulnerable to even the shortest disruptions in service.

The association wrote, “In addition, the industry does not have the capacity to stockpile finished product nor can it continue production without certain input materials. As a result, any service disruption will undoubtedly lead to the industry incurring significant cost and will quickly result in mills shutting down temporarily.”

Some companies have already had to shut down production lines or lay off workers. Already the effects of the strike are hurting businesses, and it is not even a week in.

I have quoted from just a small handful of stakeholders and businesses that have called on the government to act quickly to prevent a prolonged strike that would do damage and have significant effects on the Canadian economy. We need to act now to protect Canadian jobs and the Canadian economy. Let us consider what this work stoppage means to businesses. We have heard quotes from a few of them that by stopping the trains, the strike is negatively impacting our trade opportunities. Businesses are losing sales at home and abroad.

Will businesses be able to recoup these sales? There is no way to know. Are businesses able to adapt and find alternative solutions? Again, we cannot say.

Work stoppages create ripple effects, or to put it another way, a chain reaction of damage that has far-reaching effects, possibly creating layoffs all the way down the line. Even a short work stoppage is very costly. Lost income, lost opportunities, lost jobs are all the unintended consequences of a work stoppage. They are devastating for both workers and businesses in a time of economic challenge. The losses caused by this shutdown of rail services are not only borne by the railway and its employees. They are borne by hard-working Canadians and their families all across the country. Jobs are at stake. The viability of businesses is on the line. We cannot afford to let this continue.

Let me say a few words on the recent history of collective bargaining at CP Rail. The Teamsters Canada Rail Conference independently represents 4,200 running trades employees and about 220 rail traffic controllers. Their collective agreements expired on December 31, 2011. The TCRC started negotiating with CP Rail in October 2011.

On February 17, 2012 the Minister of Labour received notices of dispute from the employer regarding both the running trades employees and the rail traffic controllers. The main issues in this round of bargaining deal with pensions, health care benefits and working conditions. The parties were released from the conciliation process on May 1, 2012 and acquired the right to strike or lockout on May 23, 2012.

On May 16, the Minister of Labour offered the representatives from CP Rail and the TCRC an extended mediation process to help them resolve issues and reach agreements. Again on May 22 the Minister met with both parties in an attempt to encourage and facilitate an agreement. Regrettably, this additional assistance was not accepted. On May 23 the work stoppage began.

I want to inform this House that our government would like nothing more than for the parties to reach an agreement on their own. However, the Minister of Labour has offered the parties the tools provided through the Canada Labour Code, but to no avail. These disputes have gone on too long. The government has not stepped in prematurely. As I said earlier, the parties have been asking for assistance from the labour program since February and they have received assistance. However, it has not resulted in a collective agreement. This work stoppage will have a significant effect on Canada's trade. Millions of Canadians are affected directly or indirectly.

There is more at stake here than the issues on the bargaining table. CP Rail and the TCRC, independently representing the running trades employees and rail traffic controllers, have had ample time to reach a negotiated agreement on their own. They will also be afforded all the tools available to rebuild and improve labour relations, such as preventive mediation services offered by the labour program. This work stoppage has gone on long enough, and for every day that it continues, our economy and trade relationships are jeopardized.

I ask my fellow parliamentarians to stand up for Canadians and support the motion and the legislation. We need to move forward and take action so that we can ensure that Canadian jobs and the Canadian economy are protected.

April 24th, 2012 / 8:35 a.m.
See context

Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean Québec

Conservative

Denis Lebel ConservativeMinister of Transport

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair, Mr. Bourdon, and members.

Thank you for the opportunity to be here to discuss these proposed amendments to the Railway Safety Act. This committee already has a high level of familiarity and engagement with these amendments and your continued support to improve the safety of our railway system is appreciated.

As you know, these proposed amendments were previously reviewed by this committee when they were presented to the House as Bill C-33 last spring. At that time, after several weeks of comprehensive discussion and analysis, all parties agreed unanimously to support the amendments, with one minor change related to safety reporting. Although that approved version of the bill died on the Order Paper when the election was called, the same amendments, with this committee's approved changes, were tabled in the Senate as Bill S-4, where they were again approved virtually unchanged and resubmitted to the House.

During second reading on March 13, we again heard many supportive comments from honourable members on the other side of the House. In brief, all parties once again expressed their strong support for the bill.

I believe the New Democratic Party member from Vancouver—Kingsway summed up the general feeling of the House when he referred to Bill S-4 as “...an excellent piece of legislation...that has gained the buy-in of industry, labour and government. ... It is a solid piece of legislation.”

The list of members who expressed their strong support for Bill S-4 goes on. Every member who spoke in the chamber agreed that this bill enhances rail safety, has the support of many stakeholders, has been widely debated and analyzed, and must be passed in a timely manner.

I must say, as the Minister of Transport, I deeply appreciate this enthusiastic support from all corners of the political spectrum. Everybody agrees on the importance of a safer rail industry for our economy and our communities. We all recognize that the industry is rapidly changing and that the Railway Safety Act needs to be updated accordingly. We all agree that the amendments, which have already been consulted on, debated, and unanimously approved by committee—not once, but twice—are the appropriate means to help ensure Canadians can reap the full benefits of a safe railway system. Better safety is clearly the objective that we all support.

The bill, as noted in the House, is a strong one. It is timely, it is thorough, and it is firmly focused on important and achievable improvements to our rail safety regime. I think much of the strength of this bill comes from the high level of stakeholder consultation that both preceded and followed its introduction to the House.

The initial Railway Safety Act review, which was launched in 2007, included input from the entire spectrum of railway interests, including the railways themselves, their shippers, their suppliers and their unions, as well as federal, provincial and municipal governments, national associations, independent researchers and the public. Essentially, all of the groups in our country were consulted.

Everybody had something to say, and we listened closely to their concerns. This bill is our comprehensive response. We identified the issues, we consulted on alternatives with the key players, and we subsequently took action with Bill C-33, and now with Bill S-4, to ensure that the safety concerns of Canadians are being properly addressed. We all seem to agree that they are. The member from Chambly—Borduas said during second reading that the NDP unabashedly supports the bill. Similarly, the member from Markham—Unionville said that “...the Liberal Party will certainly be supporting the bill”.

Speaking personally, I must say that I'm proud of this legislation. I am proud of it because it contains an effective blueprint for better safety in the rail industry. I am also proud of it because it shows how effective our parliamentary system can be when we decide to work together for the national interest. The net result is solid, seamless, and practical legislation like Bill S-4. I would like to remind you of some of the most important amendments in this bill.

First and foremost, Bill S-4 will improve railway safety in Canada by increasing the regulator's authority for stronger oversight and enforcement.

For one thing, these new authorities will allow the introduction of safety-based railway operating certificates for all railways. This means that every federally regulated railway in the country will have to demonstrate how they meet the safety standards set by the operating certificate before they begin operations.

This bill also provides the regulator with the authority to issue administrative monetary penalties when non-compliance with railway regulations is found. These monetary penalties have a very positive impact on safety and have already proven themselves effective in other modes of transport such as marine and aviation.

In addition, your approval of Bill S-4 will allow us to raise existing judicial penalty levels which were established 20 years ago and are now badly out of date. Raising these levels will make them equivalent to other modes and provide an important additional tool for our safety compliance and enforcement toolbox.

One other key component of these amendments is the significantly stronger focus they place on railway accountability and the need for effective railway safety management systems. With these amendments in place, railways will be required to appoint a senior executive to be responsible for safety issues. They will also be required to establish non-punitive reporting systems so that employees can raise safety concerns without fear of reprisal. In addition, railway companies will need to demonstrate how they continuously monitor and assess the level of safety of their operations.

These are critical steps for the development of an effective safety culture, and both the railway companies and the unions have expressed their strong support for these measures.

In addition to these key improvements, S-4 will also clarify the minister's authority related to national railway matters and expand regulation-making authorities, which will enable us to implement requirements for environmental management plans and emission data collection.

In sum, the proposed amendments before you today will significantly reinforce and modernize the Railway Safety Act to reflect the needs of this generation and those to follow. Railways are the backbone of our economy. As such, they are an important part of our history and our future. It is our shared responsibility to ensure they remain safe.

As we all know from the recent tragedy in Burlington, even one accident is one too many. We cannot afford to hesitate. The time to move forward is now.

In conclusion, I would like to once again thank all parties for their ongoing support. I would also like to thank this committee again for the opportunity to be here. I deeply appreciate your high level of engagement on this bill and all transport and infrastructure issues.

We will be happy to answer any questions you may have.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Air CanadaOral Questions

March 26th, 2012 / 2:35 p.m.
See context

Halton Ontario

Conservative

Lisa Raitt ConservativeMinister of Labour

Mr. Speaker, I do hope that the opposition members listen carefully to what I am about to say because I would hate for them to make the mistake of repeating that untruth outside this place or inside this place again.

The description of what just happened did not happen. There was no conversation with any workers. We acted on behalf of the public interest and the national economy by passing Bill C-33 in order to ensure that there would be services for Canadians and to ensure that we protected the economy. That is what we did.

We are on the side of Canadians. We are not on the side of the big union bosses.

Air CanadaOral Questions

March 16th, 2012 / 11:45 a.m.
See context

Simcoe—Grey Ontario

Conservative

Kellie Leitch ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development and to the Minister of Labour

Mr. Speaker, as I said before, we are acting in the best interests of the Canadian public.

Early Wednesday morning, Bill C-33, An Act to provide for the continuation and resumption of air service operations was passed by the House of Commons. We put the public interest, the Canadian economy and Canadian flyers first.

By passing the legislation immediately, we have protected the public interest from the real potential scenario of a strike or work stoppage.

Unlike the NDP members, who really want to focus on aiding their union bosses, we are focused on ensuring the Canadian public is put first.

Royal AssentPrivate Members' Business

March 15th, 2012 / 5:50 p.m.
See context

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

I have the honour to inform the House that a communication has been received as follows:

Rideau Hall

Ottawa

March 15, 2012

Mr. Speaker,

I have the honour to inform you that Mr. Stephen Wallace, Secretary to the Governor General, in his capacity as Deputy of the Governor General, signified royal assent by written declaration to the bill listed in the Schedule to this letter on the 15th day of March, 2012, at 5:09 p.m.

Yours sincerely,

Patricia Jaton

Deputy Secretary

The schedule indicates the bill assented to was Bill C-33, An Act to provide for the continuation and resumption of air service operations.

Message from the SenateGovernment Orders

March 15th, 2012 / 4:55 p.m.
See context

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

I have the honour to inform the House that a message has been received from the Senate informing this House that the Senate has passed the following bill: Bill C-33, An Act to provide for the continuation and resumption of air service operations.

Protecting Air Service ActGovernment Orders

March 14th, 2012 / 12:40 a.m.
See context

Conservative

The Deputy Chair Conservative Barry Devolin

Mr. Speaker, the committee of the whole has considered Bill C-33, and has directed me to report the same, without amendment.

(Bill reported)

Protecting Air Service ActGovernment Orders

March 13th, 2012 / 11:50 p.m.
See context

Green

Elizabeth May Green 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 ActGovernment Orders

March 13th, 2012 / 11 p.m.
See context

Conservative

The Deputy Chair Conservative Barry Devolin

The House is in committee of the whole on Bill C-33.

I would like to begin this sitting of the committee of the whole with a short statement about the manner in which the deliberations will proceed. The rules governing debate in the committee of the whole are as follows:

No member shall speak for more than 20 minutes at a time. Speeches must be strictly relevant to the item or clause under consideration. There is no formal period for questions and comments. Members may use their time to speak or to ask questions and the responses will be counted in the time allotted to that member. Members may speak more than once. Members need not be in their own seat to be recognized.

The House will now proceed to clause by clause consideration of the bill. The hon. Minister of Labour.

(On clause 2)

The hon. Minister of Labour.

Protecting Air Service ActGovernment Orders

March 13th, 2012 / 10:25 p.m.
See context

Simcoe—Grey Ontario

Conservative

Kellie Leitch ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development and to the Minister of Labour

Mr. Speaker, today I hope to help hon. members present in the House understand why the Government of Canada is getting involved in the two most recent Air Canada labour disputes that threaten to disrupt air travel. Since the 1980s deregulation of the Canadian airline market, there have been six work stoppages involving Air Canada. History has shown us that these stoppages have taken a significant economic toll and disrupted the lives of Canadians, passengers and business entrepreneurs alike.

Once again we are faced with the possibility of a work stoppage at Air Canada, and once again we face potential economic damage and disruption to Canadians. Parents in my riding of Simcoe—Grey who are away on March break are quite anxious and concerned about this uncertainty and disruption. As the saying goes, those who do not heed the lessons of history may repeat them. At a time when our economic recovery is still fragile, the Government of Canada must act to protect the economy and air services. Up to now, the news about employment in Canada has been encouraging. We have recovered all the jobs that were lost in the recession and created some new ones. Do we really want to take chances with our economy?

The point is that work stoppages can be very costly, especially if they occur in a major industrial player such as Air Canada. They have the potential to cascade down through other sectors, hospitality, food, travel, manufacturing, public relations and marketing. It has been estimated that losses to all sectors of the Canadian economy could easily add up to about $22.4 million a week, for every week a stoppage drags on.

Then there is the impact on jobs. Air Canada is a major employer of almost 26,000 full-time workers across the country. There are also about 250,000 employees indirectly related to Air Canada. There are a lot of employees and their families who would be affected by a work stoppage. A work stoppage involving half of Air Canada's employees, approximately 3,000 pilots and 8,200 machinists, baggage handlers, technicians, mechanics and support workers, for a total of over 11,000 employees, would cause a major disruption and stop air services. The airline risks losing too much money in business transactions and productivity. The elements of the air service system are interdependent. If one element is weakened, they are all affected.

It is no surprise, then, that if jobs are lost at Air Canada, there will be jobs lost at Air Canada's partners and suppliers. According to Transport Canada, over 50% of airport revenues are attributed to Air Canada and its related activities. It stands to reason that any reduced operation at Air Canada will adversely affect Canada's airports and Air Canada's third-party suppliers. Canadian businesses could be impacted again while they are still struggling to shake off the effects of the recent economic downturn.

Why are we here? Surely it would preferable to let Air Canada and its employees, represented by the Air Canada Pilots Association and the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, work it out for themselves. Yes, it would, but I ask what happens when the parties in the dispute cannot resolve their issues on their own? What happens when the tentative agreements are rejected by the union members?

What do we do when we have exhausted all the avenues, such as direct negotiations, conciliation and mediation, with no solution in sight? I will tell the House what we do. We do what the Minister of Labour is recommending. We take action. We act on behalf of Canadians and in the best interests of the Canadian economy. We put an end to all the uncertainty and doubt there is right now and ensure continued air services. We bring in legislation, like Bill C-33, an act to provide for the continuation and resumption of air service operations.

It will soon be one year that the collective agreement of the two unions has expired. Where are we today? On February 22, 8,200 members of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers voted by a margin of 65.6% to reject the tentative agreement that had been negotiated with Air Canada with the help of a conciliator appointed by the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service. Shortly thereafter, it was announced that 78% of those members had voted in favour of a strike. The union advised that it would be intending to begin legal strike action on March 12, 2012. As for the Air Canada Pilots Association, it recommended to its 3,000 members that they reject the most recent offer by Air Canada, and on March 8 Air Canada advised that it intended to legally lock out all of the members on March 12, 2012.

In terms of labour relations, this has been a busy year for Air Canada. Members will recall that in June 2011, Air Canada finalized a four-year collective agreement with its customer sales and service agents, but this happened only after there were three days of labour disruption and the tabling of back to work legislation. In October 2011, Air Canada reached an agreement with its flight attendants, but only after the Minister of Labour referred the matter to the Canadian Industrial Relations Board and the parties agreed to arbitration. However in February there was a bright spot as Air Canada ratified agreements with two CAW-Canada units and the Canadian Airline Dispatchers Association bargaining unit.

The Canada Labour Code recognizes the principles of freedom of association and free collective bargaining. The code gives the parties in labour disputes many ways and opportunities to reach a settlement with or without the help of the federal government.

The Government of Canada respects the rights of unions to strike and the rights of employers to lock out their workers. When a work stoppage could undermine the national economy, Parliament must respond to protect the public interest.

The stakes are even higher today given the fragility of the global economic recovery. Every day of lost business could have an impact on the bottom line of a company that has been struggling to stay solvent for most of the past decade. The viability of a company is important to many people normally served by Air Canada. Some of these customers do not have easy access to an alternative carrier, and even if they get a seat on another airline, they may face long waits or more costs. The lives of hundreds of thousands of frustrated travellers could be disrupted. In fact during this busy March break period, over one million people are scheduled to travel with Air Canada. That is a lot of Canadians and a lot of Canadian families with disrupted or cancelled travel plans.

That is why we need Parliament's support. We have a duty to balance the rights and interests of employers and unions with those of the broader Canadian public. The need for legislation is clearly demonstrated when we consider the needs of 33 million Canadians.

There is really very little to debate here. We must do what is right for all Canadians and the Canadian economy. I am calling on all parties to give the legislation speedy passage so that we can restore peace on the labour front and get back on the road to economic recovery.

Protecting Air Service ActGovernment Orders

March 13th, 2012 / 8:50 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Lisa Raitt Conservative Halton, ON

Thank you.

As I was indicating, however, things have not progressed toward a negotiated agreement between the pilots and Air Canada. Indeed, after the first meeting with the mediators, I received a notice, unfortunately, from the external mediator assigned to the file to indicate that she was resigning. She wrote this:

I should also mention to you that I am very surprised that the first session of mediation has been made public by ACPA in its entirety. It is a well known ground rule that mediation is a confidential process. Failure to observe confidentiality will not help the resolution of the dispute and will make it impossible for a mediator to function effectively as a neutral.

Air Canada tabled a final offer to the pilots union on March 8, 2012. The ACPA issued a press release stating that while Air Canada pilots would vote on this final offer from their employer, the association recommended that the pilots reject the offer and send the message to their employer to get serious about negotiations. On that same date, Air Canada advised that it intended to lock out the pilots as of March 12 as well.

I would like to be clear on this: Resorting to a work stoppage is not the norm for labour disputes in Canada. There are over 300 collective agreements negotiated in the federal jurisdiction each year and over 94% of these are settled without a work stoppage ever taking place. These agreements would not have been reached without the good faith efforts of the parties involved. It is also important that employers and the unions carefully consider maintaining the strength, viability and competitiveness of their company while continuing to work closely together to negotiate a deal, because work stoppages and labour instability can only lead to long-term impacts on the future of their company, on job prospects, on Canadians and the economy as a whole.

I have personally seen cases where this commitment at the table has provided results. As an example, the ILWU decided early in its negotiations with the British Columbia Maritime Employers Association that it did not want a work stoppage to occur. It understood that it could result in a loss of jobs for its members, and it also understood the importance of the Pacific gateway to the economic prosperity of the country. Both sides remembered throughout their negotiations that the economic health of their companies was of vital importance, and this helped the parties work together to reach two historic eight-year agreements.

When parties commit to working together co-operatively and keep the shared interests of both workers and the business as their foundation for all decisions, strong labour–management relations and lasting collective agreements are the result. The bottom line is that negotiated agreements do work.

The best and longest-lasting solution to any labour dispute occurs when the parties resolve their differences together without a strike or a lockout. However, there are cases where the parties are just too far apart to reach this compromise. These are cases where concessions on either side will be deemed just not enough because of the longstanding history of disputes, because of economic factors or for a variety of reasons that we hear today. In situations where there is no resolution in sight, where work stoppages are being proposed and the lives of Canadians and the health of the economy will be directly affected, the government must act and that is why we are proposing legislation to prevent these work stoppages.

I truly believe in the right to free collective bargaining and I would prefer in every case to see labour disputes resolved by the parties involved and not by government intervention. The federal government only intervenes in situations where the public interest is seriously threatened. This is true, for example, when the national economy could be adversely affected by the threat of a work stoppage. Unfortunately, that means we need to pass this bill to avert a work stoppage at Air Canada. Therefore, I am asking for this House to support Bill C-33, An Act to provide for the continuation and resumption of air service operations.

Last June, there was a three-day strike by Air Canada's customer sales and service agents and I am glad to say that it was quickly resolved by the parties and that the harm caused to Canadians was limited.

Also in 2011, our government introduced and passed the Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act because of the crucial economic importance of reliable mail delivery. I should mention that this legislation was supported by hon. members on the other side of the House, who also saw the potential danger to our economy of the threatened work stoppage. Again, Canadian workers and businesses, as well as citizens in general, were spared the continued hardships that an interruption in the mail could cause.

Today we are facing the prospect of work stoppages at Air Canada that would damage our economy. Once again, we have to take extraordinary measures. Just as it did last year, the spectre of a strike or a lockout at Air Canada is causing confusion and doubt where we need stability and certainty. I would ask the members in the House to ask their constituents or in fact anyone in Canada right now and they will hear what I have been hearing, that we cannot afford a work stoppage. It is that simple. The risks are too great and we have a responsibility as parliamentarians to act.

Let us talk a bit about the risks of a work stoppage. I have referred the matter of maintenance of activities to the Canada Industrial Relations Board because there is the possibility that health and safety issues could be created by a work stoppage. The CIRB will review each case independently and determine if a work stoppage would pose a threat to the safety or health of the public, and if so, it can issue orders that would compel Air Canada and the unions to continue services to the extent necessary to prevent an immediate and serious danger to the safety or health of the public during a work stoppage.

While the CIRB is considering the case, the parties are prevented from proceeding with a strike or a lockout, but once a decision is made a work stoppage could still occur. We cannot let this happen. That is why our government is introducing this bill, to prevent a work stoppage and compel the parties to accept binding arbitration. We are not happy about bringing this legislation forward, but this measure is necessary because vital interests are at stake.

As I said before, as parliamentarians we have to take a stand on the issue. We need to take a stand for Canada's economy, Canada's businesses and for Canadian citizens.

Like other industrialized economies around the world, Canada is coming out of a difficult recession. Our government is proud of its record of sheltering Canadians from the worst effects of this downturn. We have laid the foundation for recovery. However, the economy remains fragile and we know that our country is not immune to the problems affecting greater nations. There could always be more turbulence, but our government is committed to taking the necessary actions to protect Canadians, to create jobs and to lay the foundations for long-term growth.

As of March 2012, our unemployment rate stood at 7.4%, a definite improvement over last year and considerably lower than the rate in the United States of 8.5%. More people are working now than before the recession hit. However, to maintain our progress and promote economic growth we need to be careful. We cannot afford to have labour disruptions in this major Canadian industry. A labour stoppage in this key sector of our economy would be a serious impediment to recovery and growth. A prolonged work stoppage at Air Canada could negatively affect our economy. Indeed, estimates of the overall impact of the stoppage on the Canadian economy vary, but some put it as high as $22.4 million for each week of work stopped.

Consider what this could mean to businesses. A work stoppage at Air Canada would mean the loss of sales at home and abroad. Even a short work stoppage could be costly. To give members an example, in 2005 a one-day wildcat strike involving ground crew workers at Air Canada in Toronto led to 60 flights being delayed and 19 being cancelled. That was only a single day. If we let another work stoppage happen, thousands of Canadians will be affected directly or indirectly because there is more at stake here than the issues on the bargaining table.

The employees represented by the ACPA and IAMAW want to be treated fairly. They demand respect for their rights under the Canada Labour Code, and I understand that. The code does give the parties in a dispute the right to strike or to lock out, but Canadians have rights too. Therefore, I ask my fellow members to stand up for the rights of Canadians and pass this bill.

Protecting Air Service ActGovernment Orders

March 13th, 2012 / 8:45 p.m.
See context

Halton Ontario

Conservative

Lisa Raitt ConservativeMinister of Labour

moved that Bill C-33, An Act to provide for the continuation and resumption of air service operations, be read the second time and referred to a committee of the whole.

Mr. Speaker, the labour disputes between Air Canada and the two unions, the Air Canada Pilots Association and the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, IAMAW, have continued for the past year. They have moved through the many stages of collective bargaining, from direct negotiations to requesting and receiving support from both myself and the labour program. This includes the appointment of conciliators and mediators at various stages.

Just last month, I was very happy to hear that Air Canada had successfully ratified collective agreements with three of its unions, which represented flight dispatchers, in-flight service and flight operations crew scheduling personnel.

Air Canada and the IAMAW bargaining unit had also reached a tentative agreement, and it seemed to be one that was strong.

At the time the union's negotiators said that the deal provided “wage and premium increases, improved benefits and secures a defined benefit pension fund for the members”.

The conciliator commissioner whom I appointed said, “The tentative agreement is reasonable and fair”, and, “Under the full circumstances, I consider that a reasonable agreement had been reached”.

However, the union membership did not agree, and on February 22, the union announced that the deal was rejected by 65.6% of its members, and they also voted 78% in favour of strike action. Talks between the IAMAW and Air Canada broke down on March 5. On March 6, the union gave notice that on March 12, it intended to exercise its legal right to strike.

For the pilots, things had seemed promising for Air Canada and the Air Canada Pilots Association. In fact, in April 2011, through direct negotiations, not utilizing the services of Labour Canada, a tentative agreement was reached. While it was rejected, negotiations did not recommence until November 2011.

As they moved through the process, I met with the parties twice in February and found that they were committed to working together to reach an agreement that was in the best interests of the airline, the employees and Canadians.

At those meetings, specifically on February 6, it was suggested, having noted how far apart the parties were and how little time was left, that the parties agree to interest-based arbitration to bring the matter to a close.

While Air Canada accepted the process, the pilots rejected the solution outright. As a result, to further facilitate their efforts, I offered them a special six-month extended mediation process with two co-mediators appointed to the file. This time they both accepted my offer and began meetings with their mediators. However, things did not progress--