Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to rise to address Bill C-234, an NDP private member's bill that would effectively ban the use of replacement workers within federal jurisdiction. I am, to the great surprise I am sure of my colleagues, going to be speaking against the bill and sharing a bit about what I think the negative impacts of the bill would be.
Let me start with a bit of the underlying context. When we talk about labour relations, it is very important to reflect on the concept of solidarity. Certainly a concept invoked by people from different political traditions is the idea of solidarity being rooted in empathy, that we should be concerned about the well-being of others, that we should stand with others and have empathy for the circumstances of others. Solidarity is a call to regard the humanity in others and to seek their good. Our economy is well served when we emphasize in particular, though, a lens of universal human solidarity, not exclusively particular-group solidarity. In other words, it is best served when we reflect on how particular decisions impact the well-being of everyone in society, not just members of particular individual groups, not just, let's say, members of our own group, be it an economic group or otherwise.
Through the lens of solidarity, I would suggest that members approach the bill by reflecting on its impact with regard to the interests of all concerned, of all who would be impacted by it: the interests of unionized workers, the interests of the business community, and the interrelationship between the interests of those groups; the interests of society as a whole, in particular the consumers of services that may be provided by businesses and unionized workers in areas of federal jurisdiction; and in particular I would say the best interests of the most vulnerable group in our society in many senses, those who are unemployed. A holistic ethic of human solidarity is about thinking of the common good of all, analyzing the interests of all groups, and in this way, the way I have sought to divide it up, of these four principal groups.
I do not think this bill is in the interests of unionized workers, businesses, the public as a whole, or the unemployed. I will spend the balance of my time reflecting on each of those groups and the impact of the bill on them.
First, what would be the impact of the bill on unionized workers? As I was preparing to make this speech, I read a speech given in this place on a similar bill by my predecessor, the MP for Edmonton—Sherwood Park, Mr. Tim Uppal. He had some very good things to say about this and he talked about studies on the impact of the bill on work stoppages. In his speech, he said:
Independent studies have looked at the impact of anti-replacement worker laws on work stoppages. Most found no evidence that a legislative ban had an effect on activity, but some found that a prohibition on replacement workers led to more frequent and longer [work stoppages].
It is not hard to understand how a ban on replacement workers would have that impact. A ban on replacement workers increases the amount of pain that a strike can impose on an employer. Some might argue it creates a perverse incentive to have more and longer strikes in the hopes of extracting additional concessions. However, workers are rarely well served by extended work stoppages. Certainly they are better served when agreements can be found earlier on without the necessity of resorting to a work stoppage. Obviously, during a work stoppage workers lose access to their wages and they lose the positive opportunities that come from being productively engaged in work. A bill that upsets the good and appropriate balance that we currently have in federal legislation by creating a perverse incentive for more work stoppages does not serve unionized workers. Unionized workers are not well served by an overly conflict-oriented work environment.
The current balance encourages negotiation and collaboration between workers and employers, but upsetting that balance has the potential to create a more conflictual work environment that will not serve either side and, with reference to this particular point, not serve unionized workers.
I will also say about unionized workers that we know that the economic well-being of workers is intimately tied, especially in the private sector, to the economic position of their employers. If an employer goes out of business, the workers involved lose their job. If employers face a particularly challenging economic time, they may be forced to lay off workers, or at least will not be able to offer increases in wages they might otherwise wish to offer. We can understand that the economic well-being of workers is tied to the economic position of their employers.
That brings us to the next point, which is the impact of this on businesses. Economic activity certainly requires certainty, so that businesses have an effective functioning economy when they are making decisions about investing here in Canada, about starting in the first place, and about expanding their operations. They want to know that they will be able to continue to do business.
If in certain circumstances they are prevented from the possibility of hiring replacement workers, that will create a significant amount of uncertainty. It will discourage investment. It will make it more difficult for them to work here and create jobs in Canada.
Again, we need to be concerned about the well-being of businesses, of job-creators, because of those economic interrelationships and because of this idea of universal human solidarity, which calls us to reflect on how, economically as well as in other respects, we are interconnected.
This kind of a measure, which would be devastating, as various groups have pointed out, to the activities of business in this country would be devastating to job creation. It would have a devastating impact on workers.
I want to talk about the impact of this on the public. When we are talking about federally regulated areas, we are talking about some very important sectors of our economy. We are talking about interprovincial transportation, rail, road, air. We are talking about things like grain handling, mining operations, certain crown corporations, museums, and many important areas of our economy.
If we do not allow replacement workers in certain circumstances, the public will lose access, or the public can lose access, to these vital services. That, obviously, will not serve the public very well.
With regard for the public, with regard to the importance of our museums, transportation, telecommunications, crown corporations, etcetera, I think members should reflect on the negative impacts of this bill, and certainly join me in defeating it.
Let us talk, finally, about the impact of this legislation on the unemployed. A replacement worker ban would prevent those who are unemployed from gaining temporary employment, which might well provide them with valuable experience and skills, and strengthen their position financially, and be a real asset to people who are able to take advantage of replacement work opportunities.
Again, nobody welcomes a work stoppage, but to stay that in a situation where nobody is working in a particular area, that those who are unemployed should not be able to step in on a temporary basis, perhaps learn some skills and gain some valuable resource, to suggest that they should not do that, I would argue, is unfair to those unemployed people.
It is interesting that sometimes the measures we see coming from our friends in the NDP do not consider the well-being of the unemployed. We could use the example of the unfortunate minimum wage hike happening in my home province of Alberta. The impact of that is going to hurt job creation. It is going to hurt the unemployed. The argument is that it helps those who have work. However, the negative impact on the unemployed, on those who are creating jobs and therefore on those who are negatively impacted by the loss of jobs is very clear.
I encourage colleagues to reflect not on narrow group solidarity, but on this idea of universal human solidarity, how this bill impacts the whole of the economy, and to look at these various different segments of society. I would also encourage my colleagues to join me in defeating this bill.