An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (requirements for labour organizations)

This bill was last introduced in the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session, which ended in August 2015.

This bill was previously introduced in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session.


Russ Hiebert  Conservative

Introduced as a private member’s bill.


This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.


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

This enactment amends the Income Tax Act to require that labour organizations provide financial information to the Minister for public disclosure.


All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, an excellent resource from the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.


Dec. 12, 2012 Passed That the Bill be now read a third time and do pass.
Dec. 12, 2012 Passed That Bill C-377, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (requirements for labour organizations), be concurred in at report stage with further amendments.
Dec. 12, 2012 Passed That Bill C-377, in Clause 1, be amended by : (a) replacing lines 1 to 7 on page 2 with the following: “(2) Every labour organization and every labour trust shall, by way of electronic filing (as defined in subsection 150.1(1)) and within six months from the end of each fiscal period, file with the Minister an information return for the year, in prescribed form and containing prescribed information. (3) The information return referred to” (b) replacing lines 26 to 31 on page 2 with the following: “assets — with all transactions and all disbursements, the cumulative value of which in respect of a particular payer or payee for the period is greater than $5,000, shown as separate entries along with the name of the payer and payee and setting out for each of those transactions and disbursements its purpose and description and the specific amount that has been paid or received, or that is to be paid or received, and including” (c) replacing lines 33 to 35 on page 2 with the following: “(ii) a statement of loans exceeding $250 receivable from officers, employees, members or businesses,” (d) replacing line 4 on page 3 with the following: “to officers, directors and trustees, to employees with compensation over $100,000 and to persons in positions of authority who would reasonably be expected to have, in the ordinary course, access to material information about the business, operations, assets or revenue of the labour organization or labour trust, including” (e) replacing lines 11 to 14 on page 3 with the following: “consideration provided, (vii.1) a statement with a reasonable estimate of the percentage of time dedicated by persons referred to in subparagraph (vii) to each of political activities, lobbying activities and other non-labour relations activities, (viii) a statement with the aggregate amount of disbursements to” (f) replacing lines 22 to 25 on page 3 with the following: “provided, “(viii.1) a statement with a reasonable estimate of the percentage of time dedicated by persons referred to in subparagraph (viii) to each of political activities, lobbying activities and other non-labour relations activities, (ix) a statement with the aggregate amount of disbursements on” (g) replacing lines 33 to 40 on page 3 with the following: “(xiii) a statement with the aggregate amount of disbursements on administration, (xiv) a statement with the aggregate amount of disbursements on general overhead, (xv) a statement with the aggregate amount of disbursements on organizing activities, (xvi) statement with the aggregate amount of disbursements on collective bargaining activities,” (h) replacing lines 1 and 2 on page 4 with the following: “(xix) a statement with the aggregate amount of disbursements on legal activities, excluding information protected by solicitor-client privilege, (xix.1) a statement of disbursements (other than disbursements included in a statement referred to in any of subparagraphs (iv), (vii), (viii) and (ix) to (xix)) on all activities other than those that are primarily carried on for members of the labour organization or labour trust, excluding information protected by solicitor-client privilege, and” (i) replacing lines 4 to 13 on page 4 with the following: “( c) a statement for the fiscal period listing the sales of investments and fixed assets to, and the purchases of investments and fixed assets from, non-arm’s length parties, including for each property a description of the property and its cost, book value and sale price; ( d) a statement for the fiscal period listing all other transactions with non-arm’s length parties; and ( e) in the case of a labour organization or” (j) replacing line 29 on page 4 with the following: “contained in the information return” (k) replacing lines 33 to 35 on page 4 with the following: “Internet site in a searchable format. (5) For greater certainty, a disbursement referred to in any of subparagraphs (3)( b)(viii) to (xx) includes a disbursement made through a third party or contractor. (6) Subsection (2) does not apply to ( a) a labour-sponsored venture capital corporation; and ( b) a labour trust the activities and operations of which are limited exclusively to the administration, management or investments of a deferred profit sharing plan, an employee life and health trust, a group sickness or accident insurance plan, a group term life insurance policy, a private health services plan, a registered pension plan or a supplementary unemployment benefit plan. (7) Subsection (3) does not require the reporting of ( a) information, regarding disbursements and transactions of, or the value of investments held by, a labour trust (other than a trust described in paragraph (6)(b)), that is limited exclusively to the direct expenditures or transactions by the labour trust in respect of a plan, trust or policy described in paragraph (6)(b); ( b) the address of a person in respect of whom paragraph (3)(b) applies; or ( c) the name of a payer or payee in respect of a statement referred to in any of subparagraphs (3)(b)(i), (v), (ix), (xiii) to (xvi) and (xix).”
Dec. 12, 2012 Failed That Bill C-377, in Clause 1, be amended by replacing line 20 on page 1 with the following: “labour organization is a signatory and also includes activities associated with advice, commentary or advocacy provided by an employer organization in respect of labour relations activities, collective bargaining, employment standards, occupational health and safety, the regulation of trades, apprenticeship, the organization of work or any other workplace matter.”
March 14, 2012 Passed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Finance.

LabourOral Questions

February 28th, 2024 / 2:55 p.m.
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Papineau Québec


Justin Trudeau LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Mississauga East—Cooksville for his continued advocacy for Canadian workers. Indeed, the best deals are made at the bargaining table.

However, when Canadian workers see Conservative politicians like the members for Battlefords—Lloydminster, Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan and Louis-Saint-Laurent parrot corporate talking points, they know that the Conservative Party of anti-union bills, Bill C-377 and Bill C-525, is still alive and kicking.

Canadians will not be fooled by the Conservative leader caving to pressure after a steady 19-year political career opposing unions.

February 5th, 2024 / 4:15 p.m.
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Seamus O'Regan Liberal St. John's South—Mount Pearl, NL

Thank you, Mr. Long.

I know Bill C-377 and Bill C-525 caused a lot of damage in the relationship between the federal government and working men and women across the country. They were undermining unions and making it difficult for them to form and forcing them to show their cards financially at a pivotal time at a negotiating table. Anyway, we ripped them up.

I look to Mr. Aitchison, because when we were working on 10 paid days of sick leave, we got unanimous consent. I think things have changed demonstrably in this country. I think we have a significant labour shortage and I think all parties recognize this, but we have gone the extra mile for workers because we sit down and we listen to them. We listen to what they have to say. We have a union-led advisory table, for instance, that is coming up consistently with good ideas, and they are the ones who know their membership.

A lot of the membership have significant concerns right now about artificial intelligence and about automation, but one thing they have asked for since before Canada even became a country was a ban on replacement workers, for anti-scab legislation, and we're going to deliver on that. I have sat down at very difficult negotiations with employers and with unions trying to sort out the best way to do it. We feel we've landed on it and we will be making the case to the House. I'm looking forward to support from all members, hopefully, as we had before.

February 5th, 2024 / 4:15 p.m.
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Wayne Long Liberal Saint John—Rothesay, NB

Thank you.

Good afternoon, colleagues. Thank you, Ministers, for coming.

My beautiful riding of Saint John—Rothesay is a strong union riding, very proud of its union heritage, whether they are Saint John firefighters local 771, the Saint John police force union, CUPE local 18 for outside workers or ILA longshoremen's union local 273. The list goes on and on.

One of the first things I heard in 2015, not really knowing that much, was about Bill C-377 and BillC-525. It was like, “If you guys get in, you have to repeal Bill 377 and Bill 525.” I did some research. It was the Conservatives. They were basically union-busting bills that made it very difficult for unions to certify, and every union that I came across was against them.

I know that the Conservatives at times like to paint themselves as friends of unions. I would say that it's the exact oppositive. Unions built the middle class, with five-day work weeks, eight-hour days and safe work environments.

We've done a lot of great things for unions. As you said, Minister, we've banned replacement workers.

I am going to put a motion on notice to study how unions deliver powerful paycheques, better benefits and safer workplaces for all Canadians. I'll be moving that motion very soon and I hope to have support from everybody around this table.

Minister, if you can, I'd like you to share your efforts with respect to being Minister of Labour in delivering for Canadian workers and for unions.

Thank you.

January 29th, 2024 / 11:50 a.m.
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Irek Kusmierczyk Liberal Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

I really do appreciate hearing all the comments from my colleagues around the table. I very much welcome this discussion and debate. I think it's an important one.

I've been reading a book by Cass Sunstein, who was inside the first Obama administration. The name of the book is Simpler. I would recommend that all members pick it up because of what it's about. How do we make government and the economy simpler? How do we streamline things? How do we make them more effective? How do we make them more efficient? It's really interesting, because I think that is absolutely the goal of Liberal members of this government, as it was a priority in the Obama administration, a democratic government in the United States as well.

It's important to recognize that this is a priority, really, for all governments, so I welcome this discussion. I welcome this debate. I think it's an important debate to have. However, this motion, as it is currently crafted, is lazy and dim, and the only purpose it serves is as a slogan to gather clips. That's all it is. Let's just put all our cards on the table. Let's call a spade a spade and let's say what this motion is about. This is an important issue, but this motion is just poor. It doesn't meet the standard of what should be a very important conversation.

Our government is committed to cutting red tape. Let me give you one example of that. The most important issue right now facing our country is the housing shortage, the shortage of affordable housing, and the very purpose of our housing accelerator fund is to partner with municipalities directly to cut red tape and to make different types of housing legal again. A perfect example of that is working with our municipalities to provide funding to encourage municipalities that want to get more housing built to eliminate some of the red tape at the local level—specifically, rules that made it illegal to build four units “as of right” across cities. Twenty-eight municipalities have signed up to our housing accelerator fund plan. Twenty-eight communities have adopted four units “as of right” across their cities. They're cutting red tape, with our support, to help build more housing. Those twenty-eight communities have committed to building 400,000 new housing units in the next few years.

This is what a federal government that is collaborative and that understands partnerships looks like. It's working directly with municipalities to cut red tape to get more affordable housing built faster in our communities. It's odd that the Conservatives, who are so interested in cutting red tape and so interested in building more houses, voted against the housing accelerator fund and voted against Bill C-56. When we introduced a bill to cut GST from the construction of rental housing, they voted against it. You have a government that's committed to doing the right thing, to making sure we get houses built and to making sure we work with our provincial and municipal counterparts to get more houses built, in part by cutting red tape. That's what we're doing. Conservatives are against.

Let me give you another recent example: renewable energy and the Atlantic accords. Bill C-49 would extend the Atlantic accords to build offshore wind farms in Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia. There's already a project being built. It's a billion-dollar project. There are billions of dollars waiting to be invested in offshore wind farms and clean energy in the Atlantic provinces right now.

We introduced Bill C‑49 to streamline that process to make it easier for investment in clean technology and wind farms across the Atlantic provinces. We're talking about billions of dollars to create tens of thousands of jobs in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador. One of the foundations of that bill is to cut red tape and streamline the process.

By the way, the provinces all supported it. The premiers of those provinces signed on. Who voted against those accords? Who voted against streamlining the process to build offshore wind farms in the Atlantic? It was the Conservatives. They are the ones who are bringing forward a dim, lazy motion to cut red tape at this committee.

It's appalling. Enough with the politics. Let's talk a bit more about this preamble and some of the things contained in the colourful preamble that was introduced here today.

Let's talk about the economy. In the last year, Canada was the number one destination for foreign direct investment in the entire world, per capita. What does that mean? It means that more international companies invested more money in our country than in any other country in the world, per capita.

Businesses see Canada as the place to put their money because they know that it's a good investment. They know that this is where you have the best workforce in the world. This is where you have the best investment climate in the world.

Let's talk facts. That's Canada. It's the number one destination for foreign direct investment. That is businesses voting with their feet and with their money to come here. There's Stellantis in Windsor, which we know the Conservatives don't support. There's Volkswagen in St. Thomas. We know the Conservatives don't support it, even though their own member represents that entire community. There's Northvolt in Montreal. They don't support that. They don't support investments in clean technology.

There are 1.1 million more workers working in this country now than before the pandemic. That is a federal government working hand in hand with business to grow and strengthen our economy. That's a partnership. We have the lowest debt-to-GDP ratio of any major developed country. We have a AAA rating from the credit agency. We were able to attract this investment. We were able to create jobs. We're on a sound fiscal footing as well.

Wages have been higher than inflation in the last year. In my community, we've seen unions negotiate historic deals with the Big Three, which are putting more money in the pockets of Canadians and workers. We're seeing workers earning more money today than in the past.

Let's talk about unions and red tape for a second. The Conservatives wanted to drown unions in red tape. They forget that. They introduced Bill C-377. My colleague across the way from the NDP remembers that. When they were in government, they wanted to drown unions in red tape with all sorts of different accounting paperwork that unions would have been forced to submit. It would have crippled them. It would have undermined unions' work by drowning them in red tape. These are the very same unions that have fought for higher wages and better work conditions for Canadians over the last number of months.

You talk about the economy. We are a trading nation. We export. Most of our GDP is created because we have companies that export goods to the United States and around the world. In my hometown, 80% to 90% of what we manufacture is for export. In Windsor—Essex, 90% of what we grow is for export.

This government has signed more trade deals than pretty much anyone. We have trade deals with just about every country on this planet. We wanted to sign a free trade agreement with Ukraine, which Ukraine herself asked for, that would not only support Ukraine in her time of need but support farmers in Canada and support Canadian businesses looking to do business in Ukraine to help in the future reconstruction of Ukraine. The Conservatives voted against that free trade agreement for the very same game of politics they're playing here today: slogans, politics, videos—yay.

Try governing. Try working with us to govern this country. That's what we're asking for: real policies, real ideas, real programs, real partnerships—none of these lazy, dim slogans.

The other thing I would say, on the issue of foreign doctors and nurses, is that the training of doctors and nurses takes place at the provincial level. The training of foreign international health care workers takes place at the provincial level. We know that. We understand that. We also understand that we have a role to play in that as well. That's why, literally four weeks ago, we announced, for example, that we are spending an additional $86 million to help 15 provincial organizations and associations speed up the credentialing of internationally trained health care workers. The credentialing of 6,600 health care workers will be sped up.

I want to quote what the minister texted just a few weeks ago. This is the Minister of Diversity, Inclusion and Persons with Disabilities—she herself a nurse—on the issue of foreign credential recognition. Here is what she tweeted out literally two days ago: “@PierrePoilievre, take it from me, a nurse: actions speak louder than words. You voted against the work we’re doing that’s speeding up foreign credential recognition. Your slogans won’t fool nurses, we know the only thing happening to healthcare under Conservatives is cuts.” Ouch.

It's the same thing, guys. We know your shtick. It's just slogans—empty slogans. There is nothing behind them, and there's nothing behind this motion. It's just slogans.

I'm begging you. Do the work that Canadians sent us to Parliament Hill to do. Work with us. Get serious. Cut the videos. Cut the slogans. Cut the politics. Do the damn work. Get things done.

With that, Mr. Chair, I thank you for this opportunity to talk about what I think is an important issue. There are many different aspects to this issue, but let's be serious about it. Let's toss this motion in the garbage bin where it belongs. Let's talk about this issue seriously and approach it from the many different avenues it deserves.

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Canada Labour CodeGovernment Orders

December 14th, 2023 / 4 p.m.
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Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

Madam Speaker, I understand why he is uncomfortable with my speech right now. I am talking about a history of the Conservative government intervening and forcing workers back to work when we are talking about a bill, Bill C-58, which is designed to protect those collective bargaining rights. That is the context of my speech. I understand if he is uncomfortable taking a little walk down memory lane as we talk about Bill C-58.

We can also talk about 2012, when again the Conservative government intervened in a railway strike, demonstrating again it has no problem using a legislative sledgehammer against unions and workers. I hope on Bill C-58 its members stand up one day to vote in favour of this bill.

It was not just the government, because in the previous Harper government we had two private members' bill, Bill C-525 and Bill C-377

Canada Labour CodeGovernment Orders

December 14th, 2023 / 3:40 p.m.
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Sault Ste. Marie Ontario


Terry Sheehan LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Labour and Seniors

Madam Speaker, it is great to stand here today with a great piece of legislation that is going to help out Canadian workers and help our economy get to the next level. We believe that Canadian workers have the right to fair, honest and balanced negotiations, where replacement workers are not waiting in the wings to take their jobs.

That is why we have introduced this legislation, to ban the use of replacement workers in federally regulated workplaces. I have negotiated on both sides of the table, for the employer and for the union. I know for a fact that the best deals are always at the table. I know for sure that banning replacement workers puts that focus on the table to get the best deals possible.

This is where workers get those powerful paycheques that our Conservatives like to talk about. It is where Canadian workers secure reliable benefits and job security. The bargaining table is where Canadian workers secure changes and investments that make their workplaces much safer.

The threat of replacement workers tips the balance in the employers' favour. It is unfair and contrary to the spirit of true collective bargaining. Ultimately, replacement workers give employers an incentive to avoid the bargaining table. It is a distraction that can prolong disputes and can poison workplaces for years after. We have seen it throughout our history, both locally in my riding and across Canada.

Conservatives like to perpetuate the myth that workers want to strike. They pretend that workers have some devious plan to halt our economy. This could not be further from the truth. Workers drive our economy. Positive labour relations make Canada a great place to invest, which we have seen so much of recently.

Striking is a last resort for workers. Nobody wants to lose their benefits and live off strike pay. It is an anxious, uncertain state for anyone. It can hurt a family's financial and psychological well-being. Our government believes that it is in everybody's best interest to ensure that workers, employers and the government work together to build a strong, stable and fair economy that we all rely on.

Unlike the Conservatives, we will not feel threatened when workers use their bargaining power to demand better wages and better working conditions. As the Minister of Labour has said, bargaining is hard work. It is tense and messy, but it works really well.

I met regularly with my constituents about labour issues, including the Sault Ste Marie and District Labour Council and the United Steelworkers, just to name a few. They are thrilled that we are doing this at a federal level. They want to see the same kind of leadership to benefit provincial workers in Ontario as well.

Just last week, I was at the Standing Committee on International Trade, where Robert Ashton, president of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Canada, said the following: “If Bill C-58 had actually been in use for the last couple of years, all these lockouts and these strikes, where the employers have been using scabs and have drawn it out, would have been a lot shorter.”

He joined a chorus of union leaders who supported this legislation. This includes the United Steelworkers Union, which reported, “Federal anti-scab legislation will help 80,000 USW members and approximately one million workers across Canada.”

Lana Payne, the national president of Unifor, said, “This legislation is a step toward levelling the playing field. It will be good for the economy and good for labour relations”.

I know the opposition does not listen to workers, but maybe the Conservatives might listen to the 70 labour experts who signed an open letter calling on Canadian policy-makers to support Bill C-58. The letter states, “By adopting Bill C-58, Parliament has a historic opportunity to advance workers' rights and improve labour relations in federally-regulated workplaces by:

“Strengthening the collective bargaining process and levelling the playing field in contract disputes;

“Banning the use of strikebreakers that inflame tensions and poison workplaces [for very long periods of time];

“Reducing instances of picket violence and vandalism;

“Incentivizing employers to focus on reaching negotiated settlements at the bargaining table rather than strategizing over how to best undermine union members exercising their right to strike.

“Bill C-58 offers practical and meaningful measures that would help to address longstanding imbalances in the labour relations regime.”

We have heard from experts, from labour leaders and from Canadian workers. We have also heard from members of the NDP, the Bloc and the Green Party, who have expressed their support for this legislation. However, we have not heard from the Conservatives. In fact, today, the CLC continues to issue statements calling on the Conservatives to tell us what their position is.

It is no surprise that the Conservative leader, who has spent his entire career standing against working people, has not shown his hand. He proclaimed himself dedicated to bringing the right-to-work laws to Canada. These notorious U.S. laws are aimed at undermining unions; ultimately, they are about worse conditions and smaller paycheques. The Leader of the Opposition has enthusiastically served wealthy interests most of his life. Under the previous government, he championed two of the most anti-union, anti-worker bills that the House has ever seen: Bill C-525 and Bill C-377. We repealed them right away. In 2005, he even opposed child care, because the workers would be unionized.

Actions speak louder than words. Recently, the Conservatives have been opposing Bill C-50, the sustainable jobs act, which would bring workers to the table so that workers decide how we meet our economic opportunities. Instead, the Conservatives submitted 20,000 amendments at committee and then tried to submit another couple of hundred frivolous amendments to put the brakes on it. The race is on to seize the greatest opportunity of our time, which is to unlock the potential of renewables, to create thousands of jobs and to drive sustainable economic growth. Right now, companies are deciding where to invest and build. The Liberal government is meeting this momentum, but the Conservatives are throwing temper tantrums.

Now Conservatives, again, have not told us where they stand with respect to Bill C-58. In fact, in 2016, the member for Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan opposed similar legislation, arguing that replacement workers offered opportunities for the unemployed to gain temporary work and valuable experience. Think about being so out of touch with working Canadians that one thinks temporary jobs to replace working Canadians are somehow a solution. More recently, the member for Battlefords—Lloydminster complained that similar legislation would result in a higher share of company profits going to unionized workers. In a time of record corporate profits, it is hard to imagine being upset that working Canadians might get a greater share of the profits that they are responsible for producing.

We know how important this legislation is to Canada's labour unions and the workers they represent. We know that experts support this bill. The bill has the support of the NDP, the Bloc Québécois and the Green Party. I urge my Conservative colleagues to reconsider their efforts to oppose working Canadians and consider, just this once, actually supporting workers.

LabourOral Questions

November 29th, 2023 / 3:20 p.m.
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Papineau Québec


Justin Trudeau LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Surrey—Newton for his hard work.

Members of the Canadian Labour Congress were in Ottawa this week to express their frustration with the Conservative leader's silence on our government's replacement worker legislation. The last time that party stayed silent on a piece of legislation, it voted against Ukraine. For the 19 years the leader has been elected to the House, he has always voted against unions, including with Stephen Harper's Bill C-377 and Bill C-525, and it is increasingly obvious he will always stand against workers.

Canada Labour CodeGovernment Orders

November 27th, 2023 / 1:25 p.m.
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Daniel Blaikie NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Vancouver East.

I want to start by reminding Canadians that the middle class in Canada was built on the union movement. It was not until we had a strong union movement that we developed a strong middle class.

There have been a number of studies over the years by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, the Centre for Future Work and others that have shown that, starting in about the 1980s, union density, which is just a fancy word for what percentage of workers belong to a union, has gone down, from 38% in 1981 to just 29% in 2022. That is a Stats Canada number. That number, according to these studies, correlates with a decrease in the number of Canadians who belong to the Canadian middle class and with the decline in real wages for Canadian workers.

We see that belonging to a union has meant more powerful paycheques for Canadians, has meant more job stability in many cases and has meant a stronger Canadian economy overall. When we see fewer workers belonging to unions, we see more vulnerability for those workers, lower pay and consequences for the Canadian economy.

When workers are well paid for the work they do and they have spending power in the local economy, that helps feed local businesses, helps feed our economy and creates strong conditions for business. That is the lesson of Henry Ford, who is by no means a socialist, but even he realized that if we do not pay workers well enough to buy products in the economy, it is not long before the economy overall suffers, as well-paid workers are the cornerstone of prosperity.

How is it that the union movement has been able to win powerful paycheques for workers or to help them win them for themselves? There are many components to the labour movement. There are many ways they do advocacy, and there are many ways that workers within the union movement advocate for themselves and for fellow workers. However, all of that, at the rock bottom, is supported ultimately by the ability to strike.

That means the ability to say they are not satisfied with the terms and conditions of work, whether that is pay, benefits, pension, workplace procedures or workplace safety and health, and that they are not going to go into work on those terms and conditions. They want to stand with the people in their workplaces who feel similarly and demand better. Ultimately, all of us in a workplace, if we are of the same mind, should be able to withhold our labour.

The right to strike is the most important principle that subtends all of the power and influence the union movement has had in order to improve the position of Canadian workers. The most significant way this can be undermined is when employers are allowed to hire replacement workers during a strike. While some workers are out on the picket line saying they deserve better pay or want to address workplace safety and health issues, other workers come in the back door, perform their work and sometimes get paid, egregiously, on better terms than the workers who are out on strike were paid before the strike began.

New Democrats have been arguing alongside the labour movement for decades now and have presented, many times, legislation that would end the practice of employers being allowed to bring in replacement workers. The Liberals will say this was a campaign commitment of theirs. However, if we look at their platform, it is not true. It was a commitment they made to ban replacement workers when companies lock out their workers essentially to impose a strike.

It is only since the NDP used our power in this Parliament that the proposal became a comprehensive one that defends the right to strike instead of offering punishment to employers who would lock workers out. What we need in order to vouchsafe the power of Canadian workers' paycheques and the right to strike is a ban on replacement workers in the context of a strike as well. I am very proud to be part of an NDP caucus that has delivered that and made sure that this legislation does the whole job and properly respects and protects Canadian workers' right to strike.

It is the kind of legislation we needed for almost six years when IBEW Local 213 was out on the picket line against Ledcor trying to secure a first contract. Nobody ends up with a six-year labour dispute unless an employer is using replacement workers. The business wraps up a lot sooner than six years if it is not using replacement workers. What that means is the business is forced to bargain.

In this House, I have watched as Liberals and Conservatives voted together. As I have said, the real coalition in Ottawa is the Liberal-Conservative coalition. It voted to order workers back to work, to essentially take away their right to strike. We saw it with the Port of Montreal and we saw it with Canada Post workers.

Notable have been the examples where the federal government has refused to say that it will legislate workers back to work, because then we saw the company come to a deal. One of those instances was in 2019 with CN. CN was asking for back-to-work legislation. The government departed from its usual tack and refused to promise back-to-work legislation. Very soon after the federal government clearly refused the idea of bringing in back-to-work legislation, we saw a resolution to the strike. The company's strategy for bargaining could not use the federal government to get out of paying workers their fair share and to circumvent a real negotiation at the table.

It is likewise with replacement workers. If replacement workers are banned so that they cannot be part of the bargaining strategy of a company, we will see more speedy resolutions to labour disputes and ultimately, I believe, fewer labour disputes. In fact, there is some evidence for this from jurisdictions with anti-scab legislation. Those who say this is a travesty that would prolong labour disputes or that there would be more labour disputes are speaking against the evidence and, frankly, have an ignorance of how collective bargaining works and the ways companies mobilize replacement workers in order to get out of having to bargain fairly at the table.

We have heard a cornucopia of red herrings in this debate. We have heard Tories talk about replacement workers at battery plants that have not even been built yet. I share their concern about tax dollars being invested to create jobs for Canadians. Those are legitimate issues, but they do not have a place in a debate about anti-scab legislation.

The Tories are using a new term they are developing today for replacement workers to distract from the fact that they refuse to take a clear position on whether they support replacement workers coming in the back door while real, current Canadian workers are out on strike bargaining for better pay and a better future. That is a red herring. Canadian workers should not allow them to get away with being dishonest, quite frankly, about their position on anti-scab legislation by trying to distract with this other conversation, an important conversation but a different conversation nevertheless. This is our time to have a conversation about replacement workers in the case of a strike.

The Conservatives want to talk about the NDP wagging the Liberal dog. There is some truth to that on this point, for sure. As I said, the commitment the Liberals made is not what they are moving ahead with. We have a formula that would protect workers' right to strike. I am proud of that. They can go sing that from the mountaintops. We are also doing that. We want workers to know that we have their backs when they are out on strike, like the Ledcor workers, who needed legislation like this.

I would remind Canadians, too, of Bill C-377, from the Parliament when the Conservative leader sat at the cabinet table, and Bill C-525, bills that would have made it much easier to decertify a union in the workplace, not with the touted 50%-plus-one majority that is talked about when it is time to form a union, but with a 40% minority. That is how the Conservatives would have allowed unions to be decertified in a workplace. Not only that, but they would have required a bunch of sensitive financial information about individual union members to be published online, which would have put workers at a serious disadvantage in their strike position because it would have required unions to reveal the amount in their strike fund to employers so they could plan to bring in replacement workers and wait out the strike fund.

Give me a break when Conservatives say they are standing up for workers. We know that a strong union movement is integral to the powerful paycheques that Canadian middle-class workers have been able to bring home. We know that banning replacement workers is important to protect that. That is why New Democrats are proud we have this legislation before the House.

Canada Labour CodeGovernment Orders

November 27th, 2023 / 12:30 p.m.
See context


Peter Fonseca Liberal Mississauga East—Cooksville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Halifax.

I am proud to speak to and defend Bill C-58, which proposes amendments to both the Canada Labour Code and the Canada Industrial Relations Board Regulations, 2012. With good reason, the labour movement has consistently criticized the use of replacement workers, deeming it destructive and unfair. Bill C-58 is about restoring that long-overdue fairness and about levelling the playing field.

Relying on replacement workers not only diverts attention from the bargaining table but also prolongs disputes, ultimately poisoning the employer-worker relationship for generations. The crucial question that arises is why Canada should now consider banning the use of replacement workers. Practices' merely being customary does not automatically render them justifiable. Should a worker's right to engage in meaningful labour strikes be compromised by the looming threat of replacement? Is a bargaining table where negotiating power is significantly curtailed truly fair? Can the reliance on replacement workers be deemed appropriate in 21st-century labour relations? The answers to these questions are no, no and no.

My parents fled a right-wing fascist dictatorship to come to Canada to work hard and to contribute to our democracy. In dictatorship Portugal, organized labour and unions were banned because the dictator did not want workers to be treated fairly, to have the right to assemble or to have bargaining rights, and he definitely did not want workers to be able to strike.

I stood on picket lines as an eight-year-old, alongside union members, my parents. My father, a proud member of United Steelworkers at John Inglis and Company, a highly profitable company, contributed to the production of industrial machinery here in Canada. The USW union and the Teamsters were two unions my dad belonged to, and my mother, Maria Fonseca, was a card-carrying member of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, CUPE. I can attest to the pivotal role these unions played in enhancing the life of our family and the lives of thousands of union employees, and benefiting all workers.

Recalling a distressing moment from my childhood, I vividly remember when my father, Joachim, “Jack”, Fonseca, informed my mother that his union brothers and sisters would be commencing a strike the next day, a chilly February day. His fight was centred around securing better wages, improving benefits, gaining advancements for health and safety conditions and safeguarding his pension. The ensuing strike lasted nearly two months, with replacement workers being a significant factor in its prolonged duration. The company opted to deploy non-unionized management personnel on the production line and brought in replacement workers, commonly referred to as “scabs”. Additionally, it exploited vulnerable workers, employees who were struggling, by encouraging them to cross the picket line. This strategic move not only hindered the progress of negotiations but also poisoned relations between employees and employer and led to the deterioration of friendships among co-workers.

Extended disputes of this nature tend to bring out the worst, placing workers in untenable positions where they must choose between asserting their rights and providing for their family. Recognizing the detrimental impact of such situations, various jurisdictions have enacted legislation to prohibit the use of replacement workers. Quebec implemented such legislation in 1977 to curb the violent confrontations arising from strikes and picket lines in the province. Similarly, in 1993, the Government of British Columbia passed comparable legislation in response to the escalating tensions between employers and the labour movement. The outcomes in Quebec and B.C. following the passage of such legislation were notable. The frequency of strikes decreased, providing for more predictability and stability.

We consistently emphasize the importance of focusing on being at the bargaining table. Conversely, on the other side of the aisle, Conservatives always seem to have jumped up and introduced back-to-work legislation, as they say, and to have used replacement workers. It is just wrong. It is crucial to acknowledge that striking represents a last resort for workers, as no one desires to lose benefits and rely on strike pay. Collective bargaining, while challenging, remains the preferred solution.

Our economy relies on employers and unions engaging in meaningful negotiations to secure the best and most resilient agreements. Bill C-58 seeks to maintain focus on the bargaining table, promoting stability and certainty in supply chains and in the overall economy. While each industry and bargaining table may differ, the overarching goal is consistent: keeping parties engaged at the table, fostering a more predictable process and eliminating distractions. The legislation aims to achieve these outcomes for business, employers and unions alike. Emphasizing the importance of this approach is not only a smart strategy but also the right one. Labour has long advocated for such measures, and the positive reactions from labour leaders since the bill's introduction underscore the significance of the bill. As expressed by Gil McGowan from the Alberta Federation of Labour, “[t]his is Canadian politics at its best. This is Parliament working for workers.” Past victories by unions have significantly enhanced the ability of workers to enjoy a decent quality of life. I highlight these points because, now more than ever, legislation supporting workers is crucial.

There are members of Parliament, including the Conservative leader, with a history of attacking labour, attacking unions and undermining the interests of workers. The Conservative leader has been a strong advocate for implementing U.S.-style right-to-work laws in Canada. It is telling that the Conservatives and their leader avoid mentioning the words “union”, “labour” or “scab”. These omissions speak volumes about their anti-labour stance.

Unionized workers are currently leading the way in negotiating substantial wage increases amidst rising inflation. Moreover, it is great that an increasing number of young Canadian workers are expressing interest in the labour movement, initiating union efforts in diverse workplaces such as Uber, Starbucks and grocery stores.

Let us not forget, from during Stephen Harper's administration, the Conservative leader's anti-worker Bill C-377. The Conservatives vigorously opposed card-check legislation, which aimed to facilitate unionization. They opted instead to make things more difficult for workers and to afford employers more time to intervene in union initiatives. The Liberal government, in response, enacted legislation to reverse the anti-union Conservative amendments under Bill C-377 and Bill C-525, bills that undermined unions and the ability of workers to organize. Across Canada, employers invest millions in legal, consulting and security services to thwart union drives, ensuring their lack of success. There have been employers that have helicoptered replacement workers over picket lines into job sites.

The Conservative leader and the Conservative Party advocate importing into Canada U.S.-style right-to-work laws that weaken the labour movement by hindering unions and collective bargaining. Shamefully, the Conservative leader actively promotes right-to-work laws here in Canada. In 2012, the Conservative leader spearheaded a campaign to allow public sector workers to opt out of union dues, directly challenging the Rand formula, a rule backed by the Supreme Court that allows unions to collect dues. The Conservative leader is, unequivocally, an anti-labour-union proponent, aligning himself with extreme right-wing, MAGA politics. Despite the pivotal role played by the labour movement in securing progressive labour laws and improved working conditions, the Conservatives consistently fail to acknowledge these contributions. The Conservative leader's history reflects consistent support for anti-union, right-to-work policies looking to rob individuals of civil and job rights.

In contrast, Bill C-58 legislation under consideration would be unique, arising from tripartite collaboration among employers, workers and the government. It aims to enhance labour relations in Canada, fostering greater stability and certainty for all citizens.

LabourOral Questions

April 26th, 2023 / 2:25 p.m.
See context

Papineau Québec


Justin Trudeau LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, we will take no lessons from the Conservative Party of Canada. Its approach on services to Canadians was to close Veterans Affairs offices; cut services to women; fight with the unions, including with legislation that was anti-union, like Bill C-525 and Bill C-377, which the member voted in favour of; or, furthermore, continue to make cuts across the board.

We have stepped up to support Canadians. Our public servants stepped up to help Canadians through the pandemic, and now we are in negotiations to make sure we get the right deal for them and the right deal for Canadians.

LabourOral Questions

April 19th, 2023 / 2:50 p.m.
See context

Papineau Québec


Justin Trudeau LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, I question the member opposite's mention of our Conservative colours. She knows full well that the very first thing we did when we were elected was to eliminate the Conservative anti-union legislation Bill C-525 and Bill C-377. The attacks the Conservatives laid on labour were legendary, and that is why we worked in partnership with organized labour across this country to deliver real services to Canadians.

That is why we continue to sit at the bargaining table in good faith to work with them to continue to deliver the quality of services that Canadians have always received from the public service and deserve to continue to receive.

Pension Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

November 22nd, 2022 / 6:25 p.m.
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Alexandre Boulerice NDP Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak to this important bill today.

As a left-leaning progressive politician and union man, it is really important for me to be here in the House to support the initiative of the member who introduced this private member's bill. This initiative is completely in line with the values of the NDP, which has been the political party of workers since its foundation.

We have always been there to fight to give workers decent working conditions, decent work schedules, decent insurance, and adequate and decent wages so that they and their families and children can have a good quality of life.

With that perspective, the fight to protect people's retirement plans and pensions when a business goes bankrupt has always been a major concern for the NDP, as the working class party and the labour party. This is not the first time we have debated this issue. I must point out the work of NDP colleagues in the previous caucus who fought for this, who were pioneers and who worked very hard.

I am thinking of Chris Charlton, Wayne Marston and Scott Duvall, who, before retiring from political life, took up this cause. All the work done by my current colleagues in the NDP caucus and past colleagues has ensured that today we are about to arrive at solution that, although not perfect, is positive.

However, I cannot help but point out that when Chris Charlton, Wayne Marston and Scott Duvall introduced similar bills to protect the rights of pensioners, the Conservative Party systematically voted against them.

Today, we find ourselves in a new situation. I am pleased to note that the Conservative Party seems to have gone on the road to Damascus and seen the light. They have had a change of heart, and I hope that it is not being opportunistic in order to portray itself to voters as the friend of workers for the next election, but that it is something more deeply rooted and serious.

I always welcome spontaneous conversions, but I also remember that, when he was a minister in Stephen Harper's government, the Leader of the Opposition was one of the harshest critics of workers' rights. He levied sustained, systematic attacks against worker and union movements with bills such as C‑377 and C‑525, which would have weakened or even wiped out unions in Canada and Quebec. That is always on my mind, so I am always a little apprehensive, a little suspicious because, as a minister, he repeatedly attacked the union movement that stands up for workers' rights. I think people need to be aware and keep that in mind right now. Nevertheless, I applaud the work of the Conservative Party member who introduced this bill, which the NDP obviously supports because it is about time.

We have seen extremely tragic situations where people who dedicated their lives to a business, to a company, who set money aside, wound up in extremely difficult, trying situations when their company went bankrupt.

For example, when Sears went bankrupt, people in Quebec, Ontario and western Canada saw their pensions drop by 20%, 25% or 30% per month. These people lost hundreds of dollars because they were not priority creditors under the law. Bankers and investors took precedence over the workers who had, in some cases, devoted their entire lives to these companies and counted on them. This is not a question of charity, a gift to these workers. It is their money. They set aside wages for years, decades, to cover their golden years. It is their money.

It is good that today, as parliamentarians in the House of Commons, we can act soon to help these people, to protect them and to avoid dramatic situations like those we have seen with Sears and many other companies.

I will tell a quick personal story. I was a teenager when my grandfather died. I am from Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, and my grandfather Urgel worked at Singer for 44 years. Singer was the big factory that drew people to the town for work. It employed thousands of people. My grandfather worked there for 44 years and then he retired. A few years later, Singer went bankrupt. Not only did it go bankrupt, but its executives took off with the pension fund. Those folks just took the money and ran.

The Singer pensioners had to fight in court for years. They had to hire lawyers to get some of their money back. Unfortunately, by the end of the long legal proceedings, my grandfather, like many of his co-workers, had died. My grandmother did finally receive a small portion of the pension that Singer had stolen from them. This is just a family example, not a personal one, because it did not affect me. However, I was told this story, and it really did affect my family. The fact that no one had any protection at the time, the fact that the workers were not considered priority creditors ahead of the investors and bankers, really affected my family.

The NDP chooses to put people first and stand up for them ahead of the banks, and we are not afraid that people are going to stop investing in Canada and that the sky is going to fall because of it. In fact, I think we can go even further. When the rules of the game are known and they are the same for everyone, then investors can make informed investments, knowing what the rules are, what the consequences of bankruptcy will be and who will be paid first because it is their money first and foremost.

The bill could have been improved. My NDP colleague, the member for Elmwood—Transcona, tried to do so by proposing an amendment in committee to protect not only pensions and retirement plans, but also severance pay. Oddly enough, the committee chair ruled that the amendment was out of order, that it fell outside the scope of the bill. However, this friendly amendment had been welcomed by the member of Parliament who is is responsible for this bill. It is therefore rather odd that the Liberal chair of the committee would reject a friendly amendment, which seemed to me to be perfectly in order since it concerned the rights of workers in the event of a company's bankruptcy. It was done in exactly the same spirit, and the majority of the committee members agreed with the amendment.

That decision was upheld by a Speaker's ruling. The NDP tried to pass a unanimous consent motion to undo the Speaker's ruling, which is something that can be done and is well within the rules. Unfortunately, some Liberal members refused to overturn the Speaker's ruling, refused to respect the will of the committee, and refused to protect the rights of workers when it comes to severance pay. Usually, in the House, we do not know who said no. However, oddly enough, the member for Winnipeg North said he was not the only person who said “no”. In saying that, he himself admitted, as the member for Winnipeg North, that he had said no to this request from the NDP for unanimous consent to respect the will of the majority of committee members. However, he never explained why he, as the member for Winnipeg North, or why the Liberal Party members were against protecting severance pay in the event of bankruptcy.

For a party that claims to be a friend of unions and a friend of workers, that is rather odd and contradictory. I look forward to hearing the member for Winnipeg North explain to us why he opposed this measure when he is a democrat and respects the will of the committee. While the three opposition parties agreed on this amendment, he said no in the House and opposed workers' rights. I look forward to hearing the member for Winnipeg North explain why.

Pension Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

November 18th, 2022 / 2:10 p.m.
See context


Daniel Blaikie NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Madam Speaker, I am quite pleased to be rising in debate on third reading of Bill C-228. There have been many attempts in the past to try to secure pension protection for workers when their companies go bankrupt. I believe this is the furthest we have come so far, and that has been the result of some good cross-party collaboration, which is often what it takes to be able to accomplish things for workers in this place.

I want to thank the member for Sarnia—Lambton for her collaborative and conciliatory attitude in trying to move her bill forward.

I would also like to thank the member for Manicouagan for her work on this matter and for her co-operation during the negotiations.

I also want to recognize the work of one of my former colleagues, Scott Duvall, who did a lot of work on this subject over two Parliaments and essentially developed the private member's bill that I was honoured to present in this Parliament on the very same issue.

This bill is an interesting case study, if we look at the process it has been through, of how difficult it can be to achieve things for the working people of Canada.

There always seem to be roadblocks and hiccups, and we do not see those same kinds of roadblocks usually put up when the government is trying to do something for corporate Canada. Those things tend to run pretty smoothly. Sometimes New Democrats try to slow it down, but we have only so many seats in this place. That is up to Canadians. That is why we are always working hard to elect more New Democrats so that we have more of an ability to ensure that corporate Canada does not have the run of this place.

In order to get something done for workers, it usually takes some kind of coming together of many disparate things in the right order, at the right time and in the right place. That is pretty hard to do.

We saw that, just the other day, with the member for Winnipeg North. There was some agreement not only to protect the pensions of workers when their companies go bankrupt, but also to go above and beyond and to really do the right thing.

We saw this in the case of Sears workers as well. It was not just their pensions that they lost, but there was a lot of controversy over their severance and termination pay at that time, millions of dollars.

We now have a Parliament that was prepared to do that for working people. Instead, with some procedural fig leaves, we saw the member for Winnipeg North get up and exclude what I take to be a really important part of the bill as it came out, amended, from committee, without actually speaking to the substantive issue.

We just heard from another Liberal MP on this, who did not address the issue of termination and severance pay and why the government was so keen to remove that from the bill.

I think that they owe workers an explanation on the substance of the matter, not on the parliamentary procedure but on why it was that, when there was just about a parliamentary consensus, and if it were not for the Liberals there would have been a parliamentary consensus on the fact that it makes sense to protect the termination and severance pay of workers, why they blew that up, instead of seeing it for the opportunity that it was to do right by workers and to have a gold standard when it comes to protecting them in the case of bankruptcy.

As I said, it is hard to accomplish things for workers in this place. I know because I am part of a caucus that works relentlessly to try to do that.

The Liberals ran on a promise to do better when it came to bargaining collectively with our public servants. In fact, the Prime Minister wrote them all a very nice note when he first got elected, and said that things were going to change, that it was not going to be like it was under the Harper years, when those guys would go for years without a collective agreement.

I met just last week with representatives of a public sector union who represent the thousands of people in Elmwood—Transcona who work at the tax centre. What are they telling us? They have been a year without a contract. The government will not make a wage offer. They are having to go to some kind of mediation because they cannot get the government bargaining in good faith. We see that far too often.

Frankly, when Conservatives have been in government, we have seen that lack of good faith and difficulty in getting contracts for public servants too. That is part of why it is very difficult to get things done for workers in this place.

In the previous government, we saw Bill C-525 and Bill C-377. Folks in the labour movement will remember those bills because they made it easy to decertify a union. They made it harder to certify a union, and they would have required unions to inappropriately disclose their financial position, which matters if one is thinking about a strike, for instance, in order to make the case for better wages and working conditions.

If the employer knows how much is in a strike fund, it is very easy for them to develop a strategy to exhaust the strike, so that was something that was not good, and the Liberals promised to get rid of it. They did, finally. It took a long time after they came to power for Bill C-4 in the 42nd Parliament to pass. I remember encouraging them to do it a lot more quickly. It did not take a lot of time for them to try to pass a deferred prosecution agreement arrangement when SNC-Lavalin came knocking and said that was something it wanted. That appeared quickly in a budget bill, and all of a sudden it was getting done, when it took a year for the legislation to repeal Bill C-525 and Bill C-377.

We have also seen Liberals and Conservatives stand up in this place over the course of many Parliaments now to legislate workers back to work, because God forbid workers get too uppity. They had to shut that down and make sure they were back at work, doing what they were told and working for the wages the government put in legislation.

The Liberals talked for a long time about anti-scab legislation, but until it was put in a confidence and supply agreement it was very hard to have any confidence they would do it, and they still were not going to do it the right way until the NDP said very clearly that anti-scab legislation should not apply just when there is a lockout, but also when there is a strike. We know the Conservatives are not supportive of anti-scab legislation, and that is why it is hard to get things done around here for workers.

Even for 10 paid sick days during the pandemic, we had to argue again and again that it ought to be done. We are told that next month it should finally be in place. We have had to wait a good long time. Do members know who did not have to wait? It was big companies at the beginning of the pandemic, when big banks and others got access to liquidity very quickly, because the government was concerned about them. We have seen that when the government is concerned, it is able to act quickly, and we often see long delays when it comes to doing the right thing by workers.

I am sick of it, and that is why this has been a very hopeful process, working with the member for Sarnia—Lambton and the member for Manicouagan, because something has been coming together here that is a good thing for workers and that we have been working to institute for a long time.

Not only was it going to be just the next little step, but it was going to be the gold standard. We see again that in this institution there are so many ways to pick off victories for workers, sometimes when we least expect it and sometimes for reasons that appear to have nothing to do with the substance but actually have everything to do with the substance in the bill, because we saw the parliamentary secretary for industry come to the finance committee and sing some kind of big tale and sad song from the financial industry about how hard it was going to be on them and how nobody was ever going to have any access to credit or anything like this. That was right out of the mouth of industry through the mouth of the parliamentary secretary.

These are all arguments that have been considered in the past. Parliament has studied this issue many times before. There was no new information in that. The fact remains that when we have a bankruptcy in this country, it is workers who are left holding the bag. It is wrong, and it should change. When we look at the percentage of businesses that go bankrupt and then the percentage of those that actually have defined benefit pension plans, the fact of the matter is that we are talking about a very small percentage of any one financial institution's portfolio. They can surely bear that risk and carry that load.

Most businesses they invest in succeed. We know that, and that is why we can say with confidence that this is something we can do to protect the pensions of Canadian workers. I wish I were saying we could protect the severance and termination pay also, because we know the big banks and financial institutions are going to get along just fine. The people we should be concerned about in this place are the people who work for 20 or 30 years and do not get a second chance to have a retirement nest egg.

They depend on that, and they went to work on that understanding, and when something goes wrong that is far beyond their decision-making or control, they need to know that the future they worked for is in place for them, so I am very glad we will be doing that with their pension. I am angry we are not doing that for termination and severance pay because the Liberals decided to go for sneaky tricks instead of a straight-up vote on the issue in this Parliament, and I look forward to working with other members of this place to see if folks in the other place, the Senate, will have the good sense to do what we should have done here.

TaxationOral Questions

November 18th, 2022 / noon
See context

University—Rosedale Ontario


Chrystia Freeland LiberalDeputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance

Madam Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity to talk about hard-working Canadians, unionized working Canadians. Our government believes in supporting them, and that is why one of the first things we did was repeal anti-worker Harper legislation: Bill C-377 and Bill C-525. If the Conservatives really want to support Canadian working people, they should promise never again to put forward anti-worker legislation.

Fall Economic StatementRoutine Proceedings

November 3rd, 2022 / 5:50 p.m.
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Daniel Blaikie NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Madam Speaker, I want to take the opportunity to talk a little about respect and what it means, because I think we are living in a time when people are finding it hard to be respected.

People are working hard at full-time jobs while interest rates are going up. If the conversation they are having around their table is whether they are going to continue to be able to afford their home, whether that is because of mortgage payments or rent that continues to climb much faster than any possible justification for it, I think they would feel like they cannot get respect.

Young people who are working four or five different jobs in the gig economy, trying to make a go, are giving up on the dream of home ownership. They are wondering if they are going to be able to afford to buy their food as they try to figure out a time to eat between the different jobs and the places they have to get to in order to work them, and they do not feel the effort they are putting in is respected right now.

People facing layoffs know there is not a decent employment insurance system to count on, because some of the improvements that were there for the last couple of years during the pandemic were taken away by the government in September, even as it begins to talk about the possibility of recession. They are feeling like they are not getting any respect, that the government is not there to put in place the kinds of things they need in order to weather the storm.

There are people living with disabilities, who cannot work at all or who can work only part-time, and I think there are many people who, due to COVID, either have had the experience of not being able to work for reasons beyond their control or have not been able to get enough work. A lot of Canadians now know that pain, and it is one that people living with disabilities in Canada have known for far too long. They cannot get respect. When they see that the meagre disability pensions various levels of government offer, which have been legislating people living with disabilities into poverty for years, even before the pandemic, are not going up in the context of inflation, it is hard for them to feel respected.

Seniors have worked their whole lives and are now trying to make it on a fixed income that does not really grow and certainly does not grow at the pace of the extraordinary level of inflation we have seen in essentials. They do not feel like the career they had, to fight for and earn that pension over time, is being respected when it gets burned up so companies like Loblaws can make another million dollars a day of profit.

Indigenous people in Canada are part of generations of people who have not been able to access good economic opportunities and services at home. When they move to the city and find that systemic racism and jurisdictional disputes get in the way of their ability to access those opportunities and services, that is not respect, and that is a long and ongoing disrespect that Canada has paid far too often to indigenous people.

For sick Canadians right now, who just need to go to the hospital or need to get their kid or parent to the hospital, it is hard to feel respected when they walk in and see the incredible need that is there and the fact that governments have not risen to the occasion to invest in the training, employees and infrastructure we need in order to be able to deliver good health services.

Therefore, on top of all the real financial distress that people are experiencing, I think there is also this tremendous feeling of disrespect, of working really hard doing the things people can in order to make it, and of more and more not being enough. There is a feeling that the people who should be there to have their back, to try to create structures and systems that allow people who are working hard in their own way to succeed, are not doing that job.

Respect requires a few things. I do not pretend to have a comprehensive list today, but I want to offer up some of the things I think are particularly pertinent to debate in this place and some of the policies that we could adopt here in order to make life a little easier for Canadians.

Certainly one thing that respect requires is civility. We have to treat each other well. Respect also requires that we be honest with each other, and there is certainly a lack of that in this place, far too often. The third thing it requires, which speaks to some of the problems I opened this speech with, is results. We can talk at people all we like, but if at the end of the day things do not actually get better, if there is not actual material improvement that they can feel in their household budget, then it does not matter what we say in this place.

At the end of the day, we are not respecting people if we are not coming to the table and working together to implement real solutions that are going to make a difference in their lives.

I want to talk about civility, which is something we have talked a lot about this year, unfortunately, because there is such a pronounced lack of it. Even though we have some strong disagreements in this place, that is okay, because that is what this place is for. However, we need to do that in a way that respects other people with a different opinion and we need to understand that it does not make them demons, monsters, traitors, treasonous or whatever other word people want to substitute in. Just because somebody disagrees with us does not mean we should adopt a conspiracy theory that they are part of some kind of world movement to undermine everybody. Just because somebody disagrees with us does not mean it is okay to promote the use of violence or attack them physically.

That is not okay. We have seen too much of that in Canada. We have seen too much of it encouraged, frankly, in the kind of irresponsible rhetoric that too often finds its way to the floor of the House of Commons.

I am going to disagree with some people today, and I am going to be harsh in my criticism. That is okay. It is when it gets taken to the next level that it is a real problem, and it is a problem that is too present and is undermining Canadian democracy.

Unfortunately, we are living in a time when that is not an alarmist thing to say. It is a truth that needs to be spoken. It is in that spirit that I am going to engage in what I hope is some meaningful and constructive criticism here today.

We have to be honest with each other if we want to show respect to ourselves and to each other in this place, but also to Canadians. I want to highlight some issues on which I think there is a pronounced lack of honesty about what is really going on. That is important, not just from the point of view of respect, but in the sense of being honest for its own sake. It is important because, if we want to get to that other part, the results, we have to be honest about what the problems are. If we cannot be honest about what the problems are and where they come from, or if certain political agendas are allowed to obscure what the real causes of the problems are, then we will not get to the solutions and we will not get the results we need.

We talk a lot about inflation in this place, and inflation is a real problem. That much is true. That is honest, and we will hear that from all sides. If we want to tackle the problem of inflation, then I think some of the narratives around here are quite unhelpful.

As much as I think it is true that the liquidity that was offered to banks right at the beginning of the pandemic, just as it was under the previous Conservative government when the great recession of 2008 hit, poured more gasoline on the fire in our housing market, I do not think it is plausible to try to pretend that moment in 2020 caused the housing crisis in Canada.

How do we know that is true? Anyone with a memory that extends back past 2020, which I hope is anyone serving in this place, will know that housing was getting more and more unaffordable then. It was breaking household budgets then. We have been on a trajectory for the last 20 years that has seen housing prices skyrocket.

In the case of inflation in the housing market alone, it is simply not true to say this is a new problem since 2020 and it has all been fuelled by government dollars. In fact, the people buying up these properties are private actors in the housing market, and they were sitting on tons of cash before the pandemic.

They are finding ways to buy properties in the housing market and make housing more unaffordable for people who do not have a lot of means, so they can rent those same places out to renters. One of the places this started was when the Harper government refused to renew the operating grants of affordable housing that was built in the sixties and seventies.

That was not even the starting place; it was just another place. We can go back to 2015 and a bit earlier to see when real estate investment trusts started slobbering all over formerly affordable buildings that they could pay for with the money they already had in hand, mostly due to corporate tax cuts that were initiated in 2000 by the Chrétien Liberals and continued by the Harper Conservatives. Jim Flaherty himself complained that businesses were not spending and reinvesting in real capital that enhanced Canadian productivity. Those piles of cash were being used to get into real estate.

Let us not pretend somehow that public spending alone manufactured a housing crisis in Canada. It is not true. We will not fix the problem until everybody in this place, including the leader of the Conservatives, acknowledges that. Let us have a little honesty about the root causes of that.

Let us also have some honesty and recognize that we are in a time of serious global supply chain shortage. That is driving a lot of inflation when it comes to the price of many things. People who have been fortunate in this time to purchase automobiles have complained about the long wait. It is because they cannot get the chips from China, because China has a zero tolerance COVID policy so they often do not have workers in the factories that make the chips.

It is partly because of the free trade agenda of Liberals and Conservatives alike that outsourced that work at the end of the 1980s and the early 1990s instead of building that stuff here. It is a little rich to hear Conservatives these days talking about restoring and free trade out of both sides of their mouths at the same time.

Let us talk a little about the role that corporate greed is playing in inflation. We have seen reports that say as much as 25% of the current inflation that we are experiencing comes from price increases that go above and beyond the cost increases that companies are experiencing. That is a real thing.

When we look at the report about Loblaws today, and we see that mad money is being made by a number of companies, when we see that profit happening in the oil and gas sector, and we saw it with big box stores in the pandemic, we know that these price increases are being charged on the very market principles that Conservatives and Liberals alike love to defend, which is charge what the market can bear. It is why the government does not want to implement a windfall profit tax, because it thinks if someone is in the right place at the right time and they own something that they can charge a lot for, that that is good and that is what they should be doing. It does not matter if it is food. It does not matter if it is socks. It does not matter if it is rent. It does not matter if it is a Nintendo. To them, it is all the same.

What New Democrats have been trying to say in this place for a long time is that not all goods in the market are the same. There are goods that people cannot do without. They are not just goods. They are not wants. They are not desires. They are needs. We should have a government that structures our economy to make sure that people can access the things they need and leave to the market the things they simply want. That is a meaningful difference.

We need a little honesty in this place when it comes to what it means to defend the rights of workers. We have a Leader of the Opposition who gets up all the time and pretends that he is defending workers. I remember that he was part of the government with Bill C-377 and Bill C-525 that were a direct attack on workers' ability to organize. I have noticed his pathetic silence when it comes to the Conservative government in Ontario right now pre-emptively using the notwithstanding clause in order to deny the collective bargaining rights of workers.

I find it difficult to see the Prime Minister pretend to be a champion for those same rights when I watched in this place as his government introduced and railroaded through, with the help of the Conservatives, back-to-work legislation for Canada Post workers and workers at the port of Montreal.

If he is upset at the Ford government pre-emptively using the notwithstanding clause, we can be sure he does not have an objection to taking away collective bargaining rights by legislating people back to work. Let us have some honesty about that in this place as well.

One of the ways we could help people is by removing the GST on home heating. That is a long-standing NDP position. I thought maybe we would find some help from the Conservatives, but they are obsessed with the carbon tax. Let us have a little honesty about the facts.

First of all, the carbon tax does not apply everywhere in the country. B.C., Quebec, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, and the Northwest Territories all have their own carbon pricing system. Removing the federal carbon tax from home heating would not do a whit for people who are concerned about the cost of home heating in those provinces. Maybe the provincial or territorial government would do that, but it sure as heck is not going to happen here.

What would help everyone across the country is if we removed the GST on home heating, because that does apply all across the country. That is why it is a better solution. That is why we proposed it in an amendment to a Conservative opposition day motion that presumably was about affordability and helping people, and they said no. Why? I am not going to take that as their permanent answer, because I believe, and we have to believe here, that people can come to their senses and make better decisions.

It is why I asked the leader of the Conservative Party earlier today after his remarks on the fall economic statement if he would join with us to work to get rid of the GST on home heating. He dodged the question. He never once mentioned the GST in his answer. I found that passing strange. The Liberals are inadequate on this. They should have done something about this in the fall economic statement. It was a clear opportunity to get something done.

Yes, they have done some things to help. I am going to give them that. What have they done to help? Well, they talk about dental care, so that children can get access to dental services. For some of them, it will be the first time in their life. They talk about the Canada housing benefit, another $500 a month for low-income renters. They talk about the doubling of the GST rebate that is going to be rolling out tomorrow for the next six months. They talk about investments in child care.

Those are all good things. I remember those things. I remember when we first raised those things and got laughed at by the Liberals, whether it was on the GST rebate, because, “Oh, we did not need that. The economy is roaring. Everything is fine. This inflation is just transitory.”

I remember running in 2015 on a national child care strategy. I remember the Liberals running against it. We kept up the pressure. We kept talking about it. We went out and talked to Canadians who need child care in order to be able to go to work. We knew we were not going to drop the file. We kept pushing it until the Liberals came to their senses.

I remember just about 18 months ago when the Liberals stood up with the Conservatives in this place in a previous Parliament to vote against dental care. It was through the power of our 25 votes in this Parliament that we held them over the barrel and are getting them to actually get it done.

Yes, I am quite aware of some of the things that the Liberal government is doing in order to bring help to Canadians. I am also quite aware of the extent to which those things would not be happening if Canadians, in their wisdom, had not elected a minority Parliament and given New Democrats the opportunity to fight for the things that we have always said we would fight for. That is exactly why we are fighting for those things.

One of the things that is in the fall economic statement, which again is something that is in the supply and confidence agreement, is a pandemic dividend. What is that? This time it is actually a dividend that comes back to Canadians, instead of Canadians paying for the dividends that go to shareholders. It is on banks and insurance companies that made record profits during the pandemic. It is a one-time payment of some of those enormous profits going back into the coffers of the Canadian government, not so that it is in the pocket of the government, but so that it goes out in the form of the GST rebate and the dental benefit and the Canada housing benefit. That is something that we fought for, including a permanent 1.5% hike on the corporate tax rate for those very same financial institutions.

I was glad to see the elimination of student loan interest permanently in this economic statement. That is something that I have watched New Democrat MPs get up for the last seven years that I have been here and talk about and, again, get laughed at by folks on the government benches. It is because we are here and it is because we are pushing that we see things like that in the fall economic statement.

I want to talk a little about housing again. There are a few initiatives here. There is an anti-flipping tax. There is a doubling of the first-time homebuyers' tax credit, which is something that New Democrats have advocated for. I will say that these measures are still part of that market-based approach to housing that I believe we really need to move past if we are going to find a solution to the crisis in housing.

We have to invest a lot more in non-market housing. That has to be the priority if the government is not going to challenge the culture of housing as a commodity, which it could do by moving on real estate investment trusts and which it could do by buttressing the position of non-profits that want to build non-market housing.

Unfortunately, one of the needs there now is just to cover the difference that interest rates have made for projects that are on the books that now cannot go ahead because interest rates have changed the math. If the government would come to the table to help them acquire buildings and lands quickly when they are having to compete with these rates, that would be helpful. If it would come to the table to say that it is going to cover the difference in their business plan for their non-profit housing, that they are suffering because of higher interest rates, that would be something that would help.

They also need to get serious on urban indigenous housing as a part of that. I want to give a shout-out to my colleague from Vancouver East. In question period earlier today, she was talking about the need for a meaningful and well-funded urban indigenous housing strategy. The government talks a big game. It wants to say that a $300-million investment is a record investment. I think that if that is true, what a shameful testament to Canadian history that indigenous peoples living in urban centres have not been able to access more funding for affordable housing far sooner.

That is the kind of thing that we need, but that again is outside the market framework that largely dominates Liberal thinking about the housing space. If we cannot break out of that, we are never going to make the difference that we need to make for Canadians in these challenging times.

I have talked a little bit about some of what is in the fall economic statement, but I want to spend some time talking about what is not in it.

As I said earlier, we are in a very challenging moment as a country. There are all of the things that New Democrats have fought for, some of which the government is doing and some extra things the government is doing. There is the 2% tax on share buybacks, which I think is a positive measure. I am glad to see it, but I do not think it is going to make all the difference. It has to be a part of a bigger package. In addition to those things, there are many other things that really ought to have been here and that an NDP government would have been keen to put in our own fall economic statement.

Consider the question of employment insurance. The government just today is starting to talk about a recession in the offing. Just a couple of months ago, we had an employment insurance system that had been made better, not perfect but better, during the pandemic as it was easier to qualify for benefits. There was actually a benefit floor. For a part-time worker or somebody working a couple of part-time jobs who is having a hard time getting all their hours and 55% of their income from those jobs that have been cobbled together is not enough to live on, we actually had an income floor so that when they were laid off, they could hope to be able to pay the rent. All of that went by the wayside on September 24. It is just gone.

We have been saying for years during the pandemic that when those rules expired, when the government was ready to let them expire, they had to be replaced with meaningful structural reform to the employment insurance system and that in no way should the government let the new rules lapse because those rules were a lot more on the way to a functional employment insurance system than anything that we had before. At the very least, the Liberals could have kept that in place until they came up with a new fix.

We still have not seen what that new fix will be. There are rumours about maybe them acting on it this fall. I sure as heck hope so, because if the rumours about a recession in early 2023 are true, people are going to need that employment insurance to be there for them.

Only about four in 10 working Canadians before the pandemic qualified for employment insurance. That is why it was such a broken system. We have to find fixes to that. I had hoped at least there might have been a reference or a hint as to what the government has in mind on how to fix that system.

I was also disappointed to see that the only reference to health care in the fall economic statement was dental care. I am glad that dental care is there but, man, is there ever a lot more that we need to do.

The provinces need more funding for health care and I believe, as New Democrats do, that the federal government can play a positive role in convening provinces to talk about best practices to develop a human resources strategy that is not based on some provinces poaching people that other provinces train, but to have a truly national training strategy where the provinces participate on their own terms. However, somebody has to bring them together in order to have those conversations and make that happen. There is a role for the federal government to play there.

We need to acknowledge that a big problem in our health care system right now is that just not enough trained people are available to do the job. That is a national problem right now and it requires a response with every part of the country working together, arm in arm, to figure out how we meet that challenge. It is going to require federal funding, to be sure.

There was not a word about that. However, that is the reality that so many Canadians are living when they go to the hospital. This includes the 350 people who are dying from COVID every week in Canada, who are going to the hospital before their death to seek help and find they have to wait for hours if they are lucky, and days if they are not, to get service.

How do we pay for many of these things? I talked earlier about a windfall profit tax. We know there are companies that can afford to pay more and ought to be paying more. This is not a time when we should be tolerating exceptional profits, which are well above prepandemic levels, without asking those same companies to pay a bit more on that extra profit. It does not make sense because that is some of the money that Canadians are giving up due to higher prices, and we need that money in order to bring the cost of those essential things down.

I would like to think, and I hope others will agree, that mine was a pretty honest talk about some of the problems we are facing. I do not expect that everyone is going to agree on some of the solutions the New Democrats are putting on the table, which is fair enough, but that is what we are here to do, to put ideas out there and debate them. I hope we are here to find common ground as best we can in the course of debates like this to be able to move ahead on important measures, such as removing the GST from home heating, for instance, as we prepare to go into another cold Canadian winter.

Therefore, I offer what I hope is an honest analysis of the problems we face. I have tried to offer some solutions that I think would behoove the government to take up. We stand ready to work with anyone in the House who wants to talk about these solutions, or propose other good ones that we have not thought of yet, to make life better for Canadians as they stare down a very difficult fall and beyond.