An Act to amend the Canada Labour Code, the Parliamentary Employment and Staff Relations Act, the Public Service Labour Relations Act and the Income Tax Act

Sponsor

MaryAnn Mihychuk  Liberal

Status

This bill has received Royal Assent and is, or will soon become, law.

Summary

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

This enactment amends the Canada Labour Code, the Parliamentary Employment and Staff Relations Act and the Public Service Labour Relations Act to restore the procedures for the certification and the revocation of certification of bargaining agents that existed before June 16, 2015.

It also amends the Income Tax Act to remove from that Act the requirement that labour organizations and labour trusts provide annually to the Minister of National Revenue certain information returns containing specific information that would be made available to the public.

Elsewhere

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

Votes

May 17, 2017 Passed Motion respecting Senate amendments to Bill C-4, An Act to amend the Canada Labour Code, the Parliamentary Employment and Staff Relations Act, the Public Service Labour Relations Act and the Income Tax Act
May 17, 2017 Passed Time allocation for Bill C-4, An Act to amend the Canada Labour Code, the Parliamentary Employment and Staff Relations Act, the Public Service Labour Relations Act and the Income Tax Act
Oct. 19, 2016 Passed That the Bill be now read a third time and do pass.
Oct. 18, 2016 Failed That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word “That” and substituting the following: “Bill C-4, An Act to amend the Canada Labour Code, the Parliamentary Employment and Staff Relations Act, the Public Service Labour Relations Act and the Income Tax Act, be not now read a third time, but be referred back to the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities for the purpose of reconsidering clauses 5 to 11 with a view to preserving provisions of the existing law which stipulate that the certification and decertification of a bargaining agent must be achieved by a secret ballot vote-based majority.”.
March 7, 2016 Passed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities.
March 7, 2016 Failed That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word “That” and substituting the following: “the House decline to give second reading to Bill C-4, An Act to amend the Canada Labour Code, the Parliamentary Employment and Staff Relations Act, the Public Service Labour Relations Act and the Income Tax Act, since the bill violates a fundamental principle of democracy by abolishing the provision that the certification and decertification of a bargaining agent must be achieved by a secret ballot vote-based majority.”.

Bill C-4—Time Allocation MotionCanada Labour CodeGovernment Orders

May 17th, 2017 / 4 p.m.
See context

Waterloo Ontario

Liberal

Bardish Chagger LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister of Small Business and Tourism

Mr. Speaker, an agreement has been reached between a majority of the representatives of recognized parties under the provisions of Standing Order 78(2) with respect to the consideration of Senate amendments to Bill C-4, An Act to amend the Canada Labour Code, the Parliamentary Employment and Staff Relations Act, the Public Service Labour Relations Act and the Income Tax Act. Therefore, I move:

That, in relation to Bill C-4, An Act to amend the Canada Labour Code, the Parliamentary Employment and Staff Relations Act, the Public Service Labour Relations Act and the Income Tax Act, not more than one further sitting day shall be allotted to the consideration of the Senate amendments stage of the said bill; and

That, fifteen minutes before the expiry of the time provided for government orders on the day allotted to the consideration of the Senate amendments to the said bill, any proceedings before the House shall be interrupted, if required for the purpose of this order, and in turn every question necessary for the disposal of the stage of the bill then under consideration all be put forthwith and successively without further debate or amendment.

Resuming DebateCanada Labour CodeGovernment Orders

May 17th, 2017 / 4:10 p.m.
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NDP

Sheri Benson NDP Saskatoon West, SK

Mr. Speaker, I rise to support the government's motion to disagree with the amendment by the Senate to Bill C-4. In fact, I am saddened to have to speak to this bill again.

Bill C-4 was passed by this House, with no amendments, and sent to the other place, where it was adopted at second reading and where it also went through the committee process, again with no amendments being tabled or adopted.

However, at third reading, certain members of the other House proposed amendments. Of course, as parliamentarians, it is certainly appropriate to study legislation before either place and to propose amendments that would improve or clarify the bill at hand. In this instance, the amendments proposed served to completely gut the bill. Senator Tannas' amendment would have had Bill C-525, from the previous government, reinstated. Senator Dagenais' amendment would have done the same with the previous government's Bill C-377. The latter was subsequently withdrawn, so I will speak to the remaining amendment.

The card check system for union certification seems to be a preoccupation of the Conservative members in this House and in the other place. One could put it down to ideology, I suppose, or consternation that something their party, their government, put in place while in government is being dismantled. That is understandable.

What is less understandable is the fact that the Conservatives continue to try to resurrect a law that has been judged by non-partisan experts to be unfair and unnecessary. Andrew Sims, vice-chair of the 1996 task force to review the Canada Labour Code, said:

...the two bills that are repealed by Bill C-4....both had the air of one side seeking political intervention for more ideological, economic, or relationship reasons, and they have corroded the view that legislative reform at the federal sector is based on the tripartite model.

At committee we heard testimony from respected experts, both employer and employee stakeholders and academics, that the previous government's Bill C-525 was a law that was enacted on the false premise that it was indeed the very bedrock of democracy, but nothing could be further from the truth.

Conservatives like to compare the union certification process to elections, but testimony and evidence from expert after expert debunked this claim. The analogy, simply put, is a false one.

Here is what Prof. Sara Slinn, associate professor, Osgoode Hall Law School, at York University, had to say about the previous government's Bill C-525:

...there is a faulty political election analogy at work here. Mandatory vote supporters commonly rely on a political election analogy founded on the view that certification votes are analogous to political campaigns and elections. The attraction of this argument is understandable, appealing as it does to ideas of free speech and informed choice and workplace democracy, but it's a false analogy.

The nature of union representation is not analogous to government power or political representation, and as a result, the nature of decision-making in a union vote is not analogous to that in a political election. First, the nature of the decision is different. Certification doesn't transform the employment relationship. It simply introduces the union as the employee's agent for the limited purpose of bargaining and administering any collective agreement that the union may be able to negotiate. The employer's overriding economic authority over employees continues in any event.

Secondly, there is no non-representation outcome possible in the political context. In political elections citizens vote between two or more possible representatives. There is no option to be unrepresented, so...if union representation elections were to be analogous to political elections, then it would be a vote among different collective employer representatives with no option for non-representation. That's simply not the system that we have anywhere in Canada.

It seems appropriate for me to once again refer to the testimony of Prof. Slinn, who also addressed the issue of the card check versus secret ballot votes for union certification.

...in terms of cards being a reliable measure of employee support, it's often contended that votes more accurately indicate employees' desire for union representation than cards, suggesting that card-based certification fosters union misconduct to compel employees to sign cards. Although this is possible, there is no evidence, either in academic studies or in the case law from jurisdictions that use this procedure, that it is a significant or a widespread problem. Anecdote isn't evidence, and certainly it shouldn't be a compelling basis for legislative change in the face of a lot of academic research finding that mandatory vote systems have negative effects on labour relations and that employer interference in certification is indeed a significant and widespread problem.

My Conservative colleagues want to seriously curtail, I believe, the ability of Canadians to join unions.

Whenever there has been adversity suffered by working people or unfair or unsafe working conditions, unions have been there to advocate for fairness and for safer and more humane working conditions. Unions have been at the forefront of raising awareness and fighting for issues that affect everyone, from the dangers of asbestos in the workplace to the plight of the next generation of workers facing a future of temporary and precarious work.

I am proud to recognize the efforts of the labour movement in Canada in educating Canadians about the scourge of asbestos. I know that all Canadians look forward to the day when asbestos is finally banned in Canada.

As we mark the 25th anniversary of the Westray mine disaster, when 26 miners were killed, I am also extremely proud of the tireless efforts of the United Steelworkers, whose advocacy on behalf of Westray families resulted in the Westray law. We just have to make sure that all levels of government enforce this law.

Unions and their members have long been the proverbial canaries in the coal mine, raising the alarm on many important issues, and any attempt by the Conservatives, whether in the House or in the other place, to make it harder for Canadians to join unions begs the question why. Why the attack on the constitutional right of working men and women to organize themselves in joining unions?

Canadians have the right of freedom of association, and the card check system has served Canadian workers and Canadian workplaces well for decades. The previous government's Bill C-525 was just a thinly veiled attempt, based on dubious anecdotal examples, to tip the balance to the side of the employer, and employers already have the upper hand in most instances.

Rather than refute, once again, the many problems with Bill C-525, allow me to ask my Conservative colleagues what their motivation was in bringing in such an obviously anti-union, anti-worker, and therefore, in my opinion, anti-democratic law?

To quote Hassan Yussuff, from the Canadian Labour Congress:

Why would an employer care if the workers want to join the union? If it's their free democratic and constitutional right in this country, why would employers want to interfere in it other than the fact that if you do have a vote, it gives the employer time to use all kinds of tactics during the time the vote has been ordered? I could list some of the companies that clearly said they were going to close the facility, or cut people's salaries, or lay people off. Of course, ultimately it changed the workers' ability to truly exercise their free choice.

There is no reason to make it harder to join a union other than to tilt the playing field unfairly toward employers.

As I mentioned earlier, it gives me no pleasure to stand here today to speak to Bill C-4 again. In September 2016, I stated in the House my hope that Bill C-4 would receive swift passage so that the risks and restrictions brought about by the previous government's Bill C-377 and Bill C-525 would cease to exist. However, here we are in May 2017, in a déjà vu situation. Just as the previous government's Bill C-377 and Bill C-525 were enacted by the Conservatives in a less than straightforward fashion, as part of an omnibus bill through a private member's bill process, as opposed to being introduced and debated as government bills, so too have the Conservatives in the Senate engaged in what I believe are questionable tactics.

Bill C-4 had already been adopted at second reading in the Senate, studied at committee with no resulting amendments, and yet Conservative senators decided to break parliamentary tradition and propose amendments at third reading. According to the Canadian Encyclopedia:

The Senate has not vetoed a bill from the Commons since 1939. The Senate now very rarely makes amendments of principle. The amendments it does make to bills now are almost always related to drafting—to clarify, simplify and tidy proposed legislation.

The amendments proposed by the hon. senators Tannas and Dagenais were most definitely not to clarify, simplify, and tidy, but rather were designed to torpedo the contents of the entire bill. While the motives of the aforementioned senators are very clear, it remains a mystery as to why and how the government seemed unable to shepherd its own bill through the upper chamber.

Back in September when Bill C-4 was first debated, I congratulated the government on making good on one of its election promises. It would seem that my congratulations were a bit premature. I hope the government will take its responsibilities seriously and work diligently to ensure that it keeps this particular promise to Canadians to restore some balance to the collective bargaining process and to eliminate the onerous and unnecessary financial reporting requirements that the previous government imposed on unions.

I had also enumerated for the government the many ways that we as lawmakers could make life better for Canadians. Last fall, at the one year anniversary of the election, I expressed hope that the new government that had promised equality for women, fairness for indigenous people, and sunny ways for all would work closely with all members in this House, as well as unions and civil society, to bring about better jobs and a more secure future for all Canadians. I am disappointed that seven months later, one of the government's very first pieces of legislation has yet to be passed. How much longer do workers have to wait?

The NDP said that Bill C-4 was a good first step, but we reminded the government that there is still much work to be done. The previous government's omnibus bill, Bill C-4, had decimated the health and safety provisions for public sector workers. We need to restore these important safeguards for the people who deliver our essential public services.

As part of the promised labour policy reform, we asked the government to bring in legislation to update and modernize the Canada Labour Code. As we know, sections of the code that deal with workplace harassment, hours of work, overtime pay, and vacation entitlements are about 60 years out of date. It is time we modernized the code to reflect the reality of today's labour market. We have yet to hear from the government about this.

Given the rise in precarious and involuntary part-time employment, will the Liberals work with unions to ensure that part-time, temporary and self-employed workers have the right to the same workplace and labour protections as other Canadians? These workers are faced with a host of added challenges that include eligibility for EI benefits, and erratic hours that create challenges in pursuing an education, arranging child care, and qualifying for a mortgage.

When will the government commit to reinstating a fair minimum wage for workers in federally regulated sectors? Some provinces and municipalities are already acknowledging that a living wage will make a huge difference in making life more affordable. Will the government step up and lead the way?

We heard just the other day in this House how the government will be pursuing a national poverty reduction strategy. A critical element of a poverty reduction strategy, I would say, and I think most people would agree, is a federal minimum wage. As I have said before, another sad fact is the disproportionate number of workers who would be helped by a federal minimum wage are women and young people. We cannot afford not to act.

Through a combination of policy and propaganda, the previous government started to dismantle the system of protections put in place by decades of advocacy by labour organizations and unions. Their right-wing agenda has generated policies that have hurt the environment, social services, and all workers, but especially persons of colour, indigenous communities, women, the poor, and other marginalized groups.

It is way past time for the federal government to bring in stand-alone pay equity legislation. We have studied this issue and consulted, and the evidence is clear and undeniable. Two committee reports have called for action, yet the government is making women wait. It is unconscionable.

All these are contributing factors to greater income inequality. If the government is truly sincere about helping the middle class, then it must immediately address all of these issues. If the government cannot manage to stickhandle its own bill through the legislative process, what hope do we have that these pressing issues will ever get the attention they deserve? Affordable child care, pay equity, decent accessible housing, and a living wage are all measures that would help Canadians from all walks of life.

It is not enough to state that one is a feminist. It is not enough to stand beside union men and women during the election and raise one's fist in solidarity. These are just words and gestures. We must follow that talk, that show of support, with actions, with leadership, with the hard work of making hard decisions.

It is time to stop the rhetoric of gender lenses, gender-based analysis, of consultation, discussion, of a whole-of-government approach. It is time to act. It is time to do the hard work of governing. It is time to stop blaming the previous government for the inaction of the present government.

The government must pass this legislation. The Liberals must bring in the changes they promised the working men and women of this country. I urge the government to finally make good on its promise to repeal the previous government's Bill C-525 and Bill C-377 and to urgently turn its attention to all the pressing issues facing Canadians. My NDP colleagues and I stand ready to help.

Resuming DebateCanada Labour CodeGovernment Orders

May 17th, 2017 / 4:35 p.m.
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NDP

Daniel Blaikie NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I want to pick up on one theme from my colleague's speech about the other place and the time it has taken to get this bill shuttled through.

There is a couple of ways one could interpret the story of the bill.

The one that is the most charitable to the Liberals, and the story they would tell, is that they are the victims of their own success. They made an independent Senate and now that Senate does not always behave as it should. In this case it has rejected the will of Canadian voters, who overwhelmingly supported parties that thought the anti-labour legislation of the Harper era should be repealed, and that took time. They will hopefully come up with a plan to get it through the second time, although it is not clear what the plan is and how long it will take.

The other interpretation suggested by some is that a number of important labour reforms have not happened. Some have been proposed, like in Bill C-34, I believe it is. We have not seen anything about the fair wages act coming back. We have not seen any full pay equity legislation. One wonders maybe if the government is not a victim of its own success, but that having Bill C-4 stay in the system is a convenient excuse to not be pursuing these other important labour reforms.

I wonder if the member wants to help us parse those various interpretations of what is going on.

Canada Labour CodeGovernment Orders

May 17th, 2017 / 4:55 p.m.
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Cape Breton—Canso Nova Scotia

Liberal

Rodger Cuzner LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Employment

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Winnipeg North to give him an opportunity to get a few words on the record. I am sure everybody is looking to forward that.

I am happy to rise today to speak on the Senate amendments to Bill C-4, but first I want to say that I am very pleased that the Senate chose to accept to repeal Bill C-377 in its entirety. I will focus my comments today on the amendments that relate specifically to the repeal of Bill C-525, which deals with the fundamental right of workers to organize themselves into a union.

Everyone, including labour, employers, and government, wants a fair and legitimate certification process that would do two things. First, it would allow workers to make a free and informed decision about whether they want to join a union or not; second, it would be created through a fair and balanced tripartite consensus process that is based on fact, not ideology, and in which the changes to be made would not be imposed on the stakeholders.

Unfortunately, the lack of evidence for the need for Bill C-525 and the united opposition to the process it imposed on labour relations systems made Bill C-525 unsuitable legislation for changing a fundamental aspect of the Canada Labour Code. That is why I oppose the Senate amendments and would respectfully ask members of this House to do the same.

Let me share with the House the reasons for my opposition.

My opposition is first to the process through which Bill C-525 was introduced and passed. I know proponents of the bill say the process is unimportant and that the only thing that matters is the secret ballot. It is simply a case of “the ends justify the means” approach that we saw with the previous government.

This approach not only shows a complete lack of knowledge about good labour relations but also a total disrespect to the parties involved, the employers, labour practitioners, and regulators who have the responsibility to enforce a law that was developed through a poisoned process. Labour law systems are very complex, and the ones that work well are based on a delicate balance between the interests of labour and management that must be respected if and when reforms are to be made.

The stakeholders in the federal labour sector long ago developed a proven process to amend federal labour legislation. It is known as the tripartite process. As a result, there exists a delicate balance that serves fairly the interests of employers, unions, workers, and the Canadian economy.

The last major consultative review of part one of the Canada Labour Code occurred in 1995, and the subsequent report, entitled “Seeking a balance” was authored by the well-respected labour-neutral Andrew Sims.

Mr. Sims said that if labour laws are to be changed, it should be done because there is a demonstrated need due to the legislation no longer working or serving the public's interest, and it should be done on a consensus basis. Based on the testimony in the House of Commons and the testimony the committee heard from the major employer and employee groups as well as the evidence from the Canada Industrial Relations Board, Bill C-525 failed to meet that standard.

Beyond the process, let us talk about the evidence, or the lack thereof, for Bill C-525. The sponsor of the bill, the member for Red Deer—Lacombe, had justified the necessity for his bill by saying:

...when we see the mountain of complaints that end up at the labour relations board, it is concerning to me.

I think it would be concerning to everyone if in fact there was indeed a case such as this. Fortunately, it is simply not true. According to Canada Industrial Relations Board, there have been only two founded certification complaints against unions in 4,000 decisions rendered in the prior 10 years before Bill C-525 was passed. In fact, there were more founded complaints against employers than against unions.

A past chairperson of the CIRB, Elizabeth MacPherson, stated in committee testimony, “It's not a huge problem.” There was no evidence ever given to show that the federal card check system was not working in the best interests of workers in either its administrative effectiveness or in its abuse by unions to coerce workers to unionize. What the evidence shows is that employer interference and, more so, employee fear of employer interference is a real phenomenon and is the reason a mandatory vote system produces fewer union certifications.

Sara Slinn was referred to earlier in a previous speech. She testified at the Senate committee during the study of Bill C-525. She is a very well-respected expert on the issue. She said:

In sum, the research evidence shows that there is no support for the notion that votes are necessarily a superior mechanism to cards for determining union representation. Nor does it support the notion that union intimidation or pressure is a substantial phenomenon in certification. What it does demonstrate is that employer interference and, more so, employee fear of employer interference is a real phenomenon. It's effective, and it's more effective under votes than card-based mechanisms.

What is interesting to note is that the labour program under the previous government actually competed a study on the issue of card check versus mandatory voting at the same time Bill C-525 was being debated. That study concluded that:

...the use of [a mandatory vote] regime has been an important factor in the decline in union density in the Canadian business sector.

Unfortunately, the previous government buried that study, and it was only released when we took over the reins of government. It is a fair question to ask why that report was not released. I believe it was not made public because the report's conclusion supports the independent research that shows the answers to the critical question of why union density decreases under mandatory vote versus card check. The evidence shows it is not because workers do not really want to unionize but because there is a real or perceived threat.

Proponents of the secret ballot would have us believe that ideology trumps this evidence, that the secret ballot is the only factor necessary to ensure a democratic outcome. The member for Carleton quipped during his speech that the minister “used rhetoric to attack the secret ballot, which would make any third-world, tin-pot dictators proud.” That is right in Hansard too. It is he who would make tin-pot dictators proud by claiming the only factor necessary to prove that democracy has been served is solely the use of a secret ballot. The third-world tin-pot dictators that the member speaks of, like Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe or Omar al-Bashir of Sudan, have all continued to remain elected through a system that uses a secret ballot. In fact, there are many countries around the world that conduct secret-ballot elections that many members in the chamber, perhaps all, would agree are not true democracies.

My point is that I do not think we can look at one factor in isolation to judge how effective and democratic a system is, including one that governs union certification. Instead, we must look at all factors in total that influence the process to determine how best to move forward.

Our government believes in a fair and democratic certification program, one that is based on evidence, not ideology or rhetoric, and is agreed upon through a respected tripartite process in the federal jurisdiction. We believe the card check certification is that system.

When our party ran for election, we promised to repeal these laws. We remain strongly committed to supporting the rights of workers. In order for workers and employers, society, and the economy to prosper, we need fair and balanced labour legislation. Bill C-4, as it was originally passed by 204 members in this House, would achieve that goal. I ask members to oppose the Senate amendments and restore fair and balanced labour laws in this country.

Canada Labour CodeGovernment Orders

May 17th, 2017 / 5:10 p.m.
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Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, it is such a pleasure to rise and talk yet again about labour relations. Since we have been in government, we have seen a focus on Canada's middle class, and those aspiring to be a part of the middle class. A big part of that is our economy, making sure that we are looking at ways in which we can expand the economy. We understand and appreciate that a healthy middle class, and a growing middle class is healthy for Canada's economy. That is one of the ways in which we expand upon it.

Why do I start on that point? It is because unlike the Conservative Party, we recognize that one of the ways in which we can further advance our economy is by encouraging harmony between management and employees. When we look at what Bill C-4 is all about, it is one of the earliest pieces of legislation we introduced as government. It rectified some bad legislation that the former Stephen Harper government had brought to the House of Commons.

My colleague, who was the critic for labour at the time, on several occasions spoke in the House and defended how important it was that we have a proper balance in labour relations. It is something which the former Conservative government members still have not learned. They are still out of touch with what Canadians want to see. We see that demonstrated on issues such as this. Once again, we have the Conservative Party that is out of touch with what Canadians want. We believe that Canadians want to have a balanced approach. If we are successful doing that, we will be contributing to more economic growth in our country, and that is something we all want to see.

I listened to the two Conservative questions, and members wanted to focus their attention on process. On the issue of time allocation, my colleague had it right. The Harper government used it in excess of 100 times, and Conservatives now want to focus some attention on that issue. It is interesting to see that it is not just the government that has recognized that the Conservative Party does not want to pass this legislation. If it were up to the Conservative Party, this legislation would never see the light of day. Conservatives use excuses of the Senate that the same applied during second and third reading. If we did not use time allocation, the Conservative Party would continue to fill the spaces with the idea of never seeing this legislation pass.

To the credit of the New Democratic Party and the leader of the Green Party, they recognized that. It is rare to see opposition parties get behind and support time allocation. That should speak volumes in terms of why this is good solid legislation, because we have a majority that goes beyond one political party in favour of time allocation on this piece of legislation. I thank my New Democratic colleagues and the leader of the Green Party in recognizing that Bill C-4 is a good piece of legislation. It is something which we talked about in the last election. To restore more positive labour relations was a part of our election platform, and it has been a long time coming as we tried to get it through. Finally, we are starting to see that the will of the House of Commons, which goes beyond just the government party, is to see this legislation ultimately receive royal assent.

We look forward to restoring, and sending the message that labour relations are important to this government. We recognize the valuable contributions that unions have provided in the past, today, and well into the future. As a government we recognize that, and we want to do what we can. In playing our important role, by passing legislation of this nature, it will send a strong message. We thank members across the way who are supporting the bill, and would encourage the Conservative Party to get onside, do the right thing, and support Canada's middle class.

Canada Labour CodeGovernment Orders

May 5th, 2017 / 10:05 a.m.
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Liberal

Patty Hajdu Liberal Thunder Bay—Superior North, ON

moved:

That a message be sent to the Senate to acquaint Their Honours that, with respect to Bill C-4, An Act to amend the Canada Labour Code, the Parliamentary Employment and Staff Relations Act, the Public Service Labour Relations Act and the Income Tax Act, this House disagrees with the amendments made by the Senate.

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to join this important debate and to talk about Bill C-4, and most important, I am here to ask the members of this House to oppose the amendments introduced by the Senate to Bill C-4.

The previous government's bills, Bill C-525 and Bill C-377, were intentionally designed to weaken unions and to break down the labour movement in Canada. In particular, Bill C-525 has made it more difficult for Canadian workers to unionize and gives a significant advantage to the employer. By rejecting the Senate amendments, we can restore healthy labour relations between government, employers, and unions.

Our government believes that a healthy labour relationship leads to a thriving middle class and a strong economy. In 2015, Canadians were clear in their message that they wanted a government that values fairness, transparency, and collaboration, and they were clear that they wanted a government that puts the well-being of Canadians first.

The commitments we made to Canadians included working hard to restore trust in public institutions, including Parliament, by working with greater openness and transparency, by promoting more open and free votes, and by reforming and strengthening committees.

During the campaign, we also talked about the need to grow the middle class to ensure stable lives and income for Canadians, and we talked about the history and value of organized labour in ensuring those goals.

We committed to restoring a fair and balanced approach to labour relations, and Bill C-4 is an integral piece of doing just that.

We must restore balanced labour relations between employees and employers, and to do that, we need to support Bill C-4.

Our government respects and values unions and their workers, and we know that employers do too. Both employers and unions play critical roles in ensuring that workers receive decent wages and are treated fairly in safe, healthy work environments.

It is our labour laws that help ensure that there is a balance between the rights of unions and the rights of employers. Bill C-4, in its original form, is emblematic of our values and guiding principles.

Bill C-4 proposes to repeal amendments enacted by Bill C-525 and Bill C-377, which were introduced by the previous government.

I would remind the House that, as originally introduced, Bill C-4 sought to restore fairness, balance, and stability to the federal labour relations system. The purpose of Bill C-4 was to repeal amendments made by Bill C-377 and Bill C-525.

Bills C-525 and C-377 have serious ramifications for workers and unions in Canada.

Bill C-4 proposes to return to the card check certification system that was in place before the introduction of Bill C-525 and also proposes removing the public financial reporting requirements for unions introduced in Bill C-377.

Bill C-4 was already debated, and I am pleased that it was adopted in the House of Commons in its original version. At third reading here in this House, 204 members voted in favour of Bill C-4, and that means that 72% of all the members who voted in this House were in favour of the bill.

It then went to the Senate, where honourable Senators debated it, discussed it, and amended it. In the Senate, the bill was adopted with amendments, which would affect the sections of Bill C-4 related to union certification and would ultimately lead to Bill C-525 remaining in effect, which, as I mentioned, would have detrimental effects on unions and their members.

Both of the bills addressed by Bill C-4 hinder positive employee and employer relationships, but Bill C-525 in particular has made it more difficult for Canadian workers to unionize. This is because Bill C-525 changed the union certification and decertification systems under three federal labour statutes.

The pieces of legislation addressed in Bill C-4 both impede positive employer-employee relations. Bill C-525 in particular has complicated things for Canadians who want to unionize.

The bill essentially made it harder for unions to be certified as collective bargaining agents and made it easier for bargaining agents to be decertified.

Prior to the amendments enacted through Bill C-525, federally regulated unions could use what was called a card check system for certification. If a union demonstrated that 50% plus 1% of workers had signed union cards, the union could be certified as the bargaining agent for those workers. A vote was only required if less than a majority, but enough to indicate a strong interest, signed: less than 35%, under the Canada Labour Code, for example. Bill C-525 changed that to require that unions show at least 40% membership support before holding a secret ballot vote and to require a vote even when more than 50% of workers signed union membership cards. It also made it easier for unions to be decertified by lowering the threshold to trigger a decertification vote to 40%, compared to majority support, which was previously required.

Unfortunately, we have seen examples of employers who will resort to any measure to deter their employees from unionizing. In effect, what Bill C-525 does is allow employers to know exactly when a union might be trying to organize in the workplace. The point is that as a result of Bill C-525, employers now have a powerful tool they did not have before to slow down or stop the union certification process. More generally, they have the ability to unfairly influence the collective bargaining process.

The card check system, whereby a union is certified by demonstrating majority support through signed union cards has been used successfully for many years in the federal jurisdiction and in several provinces. A number of unions, like Unifor and the Air Line Pilots Association, argue that it is fast, efficient, and much more likely to be free of employer interference than the mandatory secret ballot system brought in under Bill C-525.

Other interested parties, such as the Canadian Labour Congress, opposed the introduction of a mandatory vote system as set out in Bill C-525.

Bill C-525 made significant changes to a system that already worked. There was a democratic and fair system in place for employees to express their support for a union. As I mentioned, a card check system relies on majority support, a key democratic principle.

Bill C-525 is not problematic for just unions. It imposes some serious burdens on others as well. For example, there are real implications for the Canada Industrial Relations Board and the Public Service Labour Relations and Employment Board. These boards are responsible for the full cost and logistical responsibilities involved in holding representation votes. Under these changes, the CIRB would be required to hold a vote to certify a union not just in the roughly 20% of cases where less than a majority of workers have signed union cards but in all cases, which would mean a fivefold increase in the board's workload.

Next is bill C-377. While I should note that the Senate's amendments do not affect the repeal of Bill C-377, I want to remind members of this bill so we can remember why repealing both of these bills is important.

Bill C-377 tips the scales in favour of the employer during the collective bargaining process. It requires labour organizations and labour trusts to file detailed financial and other information with the Canada Revenue Agency. This information is then made publicly available on the CRA's website. For example, during the collective bargaining process, employers will be able to know how much money the union has in its strike fund, giving the employer a substantial advantage.

Both Bill C-377 and Bill C-525 were expressly designed to disempower and weaken unions, giving significant advantage to employers. That is why our government introduced Bill C-4. It was to restore fair and balanced labour relations in our country.

Unions play a critical role in protecting the rights of Canadians and in ensuring a strong middle class. The right to organize must be protected in Canada. This government respects unions and workers and knows the critical role they play in ensuring a strong economy and a healthy society. Labour laws should ensure that there is a balance between the rights of unions and the rights of employers. How is it that Bill C-525 and Bill C-377 were passed if they do not support such a balance?

These bills were introduced and passed by the previous government because it ignored the long-standing tradition of tripartite consultation in this country. The tripartite consultation process ensures that employers, unions, and governments work together on issues of labour relations law reform and has long contributed to a stable labour relationship across the country. These relationships were not respected by the previous government. The introduction of Bill C-377 and Bill C-525 demonstrated the disdain of the previous government for the strong value of the collective voice and effort the tripartite approach represents.

Our government believes that for policies to be fair and balanced, they must be developed through sincere consultation and engagement with all of our partners. A fair and workable labour management balance can only be reached when all parties—the government, unions, and employers—are part of the process. Our government is strongly committed to this approach.

Successful collective bargaining and fairness in the employer-employee relationship are the foundation of our economy. They provide stability and predictability in the labour force, two vital elements of a strong economy.

When labour law reform is required in the future, our government is firmly committed to ensuring that we ground policy development in evidence and collaboration through the tripartite relationship. This approach is critical to ensure that fair, balanced, evidence-based labour polices are developed through real consultation. They are essential for the prosperity of workers and employers, Canadian society, and the economy as a whole. They protect the rights of Canadian workers, and they help the middle class grow and prosper.

By repealing the changes made by Bill C-525 and Bill C-377, our government will help restore a fair and balanced approach to labour relations in Canada.

Let us be clear. Bill C-525 and Bill C-377 have diminished and weakened Canada's labour movement, and the way the bills were passed did not allow employers or unions to play their usual role in informing government's decisions.

Even though there were some differences of opinion about the merits of the changes imposed by Bill C-525, representatives on both sides of the bargaining table were highly critical of how the previous government brought in these changes.

It was not only our government that was concerned about Bill C-525 and Bill C-377. Many stakeholders also expressed their concerns. There are ample concerns about the content of these bills and the damage they do to the labour movement and the fair and balanced relationship between employers and their employees.

As I have reminded all members, it is just as important to address how these changes came to pass. Employers and unions were not given the chance to help inform the previous government's decisions. It is no surprise that when policies are developed without proper consultation, as was the case with both of these bills, they often end up causing more harm than good.

Labour reforms are important. They have wide-ranging implications for workers, for unions, for employers, and for our country, which is why we must give the process of labour law reform the time and respect it deserves, and our government will continue to do so.

Successful collective bargaining and fairness in the employer-employee relationship are the foundation of our economy. They provide stability and predictability in the labour force, two vital elements of a strong economy. They are the basis for good wages and safe working environments, what should be basic rights for all Canadians, and they are the basis for good labour policy that affects millions of working Canadians.

The rights of labour unions and the workers they represent are also the rights of Canadians. As elected officials, we have a responsibility to protect those rights. We need to make sure that labour policy works in the best interests of Canadians. Bill C-525 and Bill C-377 cause real harm and do not represent a positive contribution to labour relations in Canada.

We need to continue working to ensure that we uphold the tripartite consultation process between employers, unions, and governments. By working together on issues of labour relations law reform, we will continue to have strong and stable relations across the country. By opposing the Senate amendments, we can restore fair and balanced labour relations in our country, which contribute to a thriving middle class and a strong economy.

We believe that, to ensure fairness and balance, the House must oppose the proposed amendments.

I ask all members to oppose the amendments introduced to Bill C-4 in the Senate and to give labour relations the respect it deserves.

Canada Labour CodeGovernment Orders

May 5th, 2017 / 10:20 a.m.
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NDP

Sheri Benson NDP Saskatoon West, SK

Madam Speaker, as I have said in the House on previous occasions, Bill C-4 was a very good first step.

As some members will remember, the previous government's omnibus Bill C-4 did a number of things, including decimating the health and safety for public sector workers. There is more than this; we need to restore important safeguards for workers, including safety safeguards which were repealed in the omnibus bill of the previous government.

Today is a good first step. I would like to hear from the minister on when we are going to see the repeal. You commented in your speech about the importance of safety. There are still things in legislation that need to be repealed. Today is a very good first step. We need to move on and start to get back to good labour relations and safer workplaces.

Canada Labour CodeGovernment Orders

May 5th, 2017 / 10:25 a.m.
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Conservative

John Brassard Conservative Barrie—Innisfil, ON

Madam Speaker, at one point during the minister's speech on the issue of the amendments to the Senate, I actually closed my eyes and thought I was in the Ontario legislature, listening to Kathleen Wynne speak about her relationship with the labour movement. It should be no surprise to anyone, because the same playbook that was used in Ontario is now being used federally to pander to the union movement. As an ex-union president, I can say that the issue of the secret ballot is a major concern among members of the labour movement, not necessarily the leadership.

The Senate sees the flaws in Bill C-4 with respect to the union certification. It has made this amendment, because the fundamental tenet of democracy that exists, not only in this country but in other democratic countries around the world, is the secret ballot. Why do the minister and the government have such contempt for a majority in the Senate who saw the flaw in this bill and want to reverse its decision?

Canada Labour CodeGovernment Orders

May 5th, 2017 / 10:30 a.m.
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Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative Carleton, ON

Madam Speaker, today I rise in defence of the secret ballot, a cherished tenet of democracy. I begin again, as I did earlier, by quoting the ruling by Justice Ivan Rand in the matter of Ford Motors versus the United Auto Workers–CIO of 1946.

Before I quote this passage, let me explain its importance.

The ruling of Justice Ivan Rand in 1946, in this dispute, has created the framework for our entire union certification and subsequent union financing policy right across the country, in all 10 provinces and in the federal jurisdiction. The resolution to which Mr. Justice Rand arrived was that all members of the bargaining unit at Ford Motors would be required to pay union dues, and the union would be required thereafter to provide representation to all of those workers. That union would sign collective agreements and would represent those workers in grievances. However, for the union to control that bargaining unit and act as its agent, it would have to secure majority support from the workers in the union. How one determines whether a union has the support of the majority of workers in the bargaining unit is what we are debating here today.

There are two options. One is a process called “card check”, where those who want to certify or take over a workplace go around with a petition and ask workers on the floor to sign that petition. When they have enough signatures to reach 50% plus one, they then go to the Labour Relations Board and say, “We have a majority. Please give us exclusive representational powers over the entire unit.” The other option is that once those signatures are collected, the board says, “You are now authorized to hold a secret ballot vote.” That is so that the will and volition of the members of that unit can express themselves, free of intimidation from either the employer or the aspiring union. The workers go into a secret voting box, mark their X, yea or nay, and if the union receives 50% plus one, it becomes the bargaining agent for the bargaining unit.

Now I will get back to Justice Ivan Rand. Among the very first pages in his ruling, he wrote:

But unguarded power cannot be trusted and the maintenance of social balance demands that the use or exercise of power be subject to controls. Politically this resides in alert public opinion and the secret ballot.

Why do we need a secret ballot? Why can we not simply collect public signatures and have those signatures trigger representation? The answer, of course, is that the only way for persons to truly exercise their will is to do so in the privacy of a walled-in voting booth where they select a yes or a no, without anybody finding out what they chose. To deny them of that opportunity means they could face potential consequences from people on either side of the question at stake. The result is that, out in the open where people are forced to put their names on a public list rather than exercising their will in private, they could experience bullying by the union, or the employer, for that matter.

We heard arguments today from the minister that holding a secret ballot is too costly, too time-consuming, and too difficult for those trying to unionize a workplace. Let us address each one of those objections.

She said it was too costly. She pointed out that under the current law in Canada, in a federally regulated workplace, an aspiring union not only has to collect signatures to trigger a vote, but then has to campaign to win that vote, that ballot boxes have to be arranged so that the vote can be administered, and then, of course, that workers within the bargaining unit have to take the time out of their day to mark an X next to their preferred option.

All of those things are true. They are true in the workplace and they are true in a general election to select this Parliament. It is true that it takes time to hold a general election. In fact, we shut down this entire Parliament for 36 days; 36 days while no bills are passed, no debates are held, no government announcements are made, almost no government business at the executive level is conducted. Why? Everybody is too busy devoting their time to this gigantic distraction, this gigantic enterprise that the Liberal Party condemns in the case of workplaces as democracy.

Is democracy time-consuming? Of course it is, but when we compare democratic nations to non-democratic nations, we find the return on the investment of that time to be spectacularly worth it.

Now, we know voting costs money. I think the last election cost something like a quarter of a billion dollars. Ballot boxes had to be purchased. Ballots had to be printed. Returning officers had to be hired. Halls for voting had to be rented. All of these things cost money. If the government's view is that we cannot spare any expense to administer democracy, that would be akin to arguing that we cannot afford elections in Canada. We know the Liberals tried to change the entire voting system to favour themselves without consulting the Canadian people through a referendum. In itself that action illustrated their hostility to the practice and institution of voting. Could it be that same contempt has spilled over into Canada's federally regulated workplaces?

Does democracy cost money? Yes, it costs money, and it is worth every single penny expended. It is worth it, because it is the only way to truly evaluate the will of those over whom a decision must be made.

Speaking of money, what is the decision that is being made when we certify a union in a workplace? We certify that union's ability to uphold taxation power over all of the workers in that workplace.

In Canada, people who work in a unionized bargaining unit must pay union dues, even if they choose not to be a member of the union, even if they object to the way in which that money is spent. Workers are not allowed to opt out of it. We are one of the very few countries in the free and democratic world that has this rule. Increasingly across Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and elsewhere, workers are given the ability to opt out of union dues, because those countries have freedom of association in the workplace. Here in Canada, in all 10 provinces and in the federal jurisdiction, a unionized workplace empowers the bargaining agent to forcefully collect dues against the wishes of many of its members.

The trade-off is that in this system, an exclusive majority representation, we must have at least a majority in order to enjoy that spectacular and unmatched privilege of collecting mandatory dues from people within that sphere. Remember that no other advocacy group in all of Canada enjoys these privileges. Even those groups that advocate to the benefit of other people do not have that power. Some say, ”Look, unions are fighting for the rights of the workers; therefore, those workers should pay for the value of that advocacy, lest we have free riders.”

The Canadian Cancer Society is fighting for cancer patients, but we do not collect mandatory union dues from cancer patients in order to fund the Canadian Cancer Society. People contribute to it through voluntary donations. I make this point not even to argue against mandatory union dues, but merely to point out the extraordinary privilege that our unions enjoy once they have certified a workplace. The least that we can entitle our workers to have is the right to vote on whether that privilege should be extended at their expense.

If the government is so worried about saving money by avoiding the enormous cost of holding a vote, is it not at all worried about the subsequent cost that certification imposes upon the workers who must pay for it? Of course, at the risk of being repetitious, I say that if the government believes voting is too expensive in our workplaces, why would Liberals not simply argue that voting is too expensive in our democracy? In fact, I am sure, if we look through the encyclopedia of tin-pot dictators, many have made exactly the same arguments that the government makes today to avoid facing electorates in their own countries.

Finally, they say a secret ballot makes things too difficult for the unions. If there were no secret ballots, then they would succeed at certifying more workplaces, more easily. In fact, when the minister's predecessor pulled a document out of my former department when I was minister of employment and social development, she said, “Aha, when there are secret ballots, there's a lower rate of union certification. Gotcha. Now we've found out what your agenda is.” It was the silver bullet. It was the smoking gun. “We have just proved that when workers are given the opportunity to vote, they make decisions that we don't like, and now we have proof of it, and because they make decisions we don't like, we are going to take away their power to make that decision in the first place.”

That is their idea of democracy. If people vote in a way that the Liberals and special interest groups which back them do not like, they will take away the right to vote altogether as an unnecessary costly and burdensome inconvenience. Democracy is not an inconvenience. It is the basis of our entire country.

Finally, the Liberals said that allowing a secret ballot would permit employers to exert undue pressure on workers. A secret ballot is secret. The employer does not find out which way the worker voted. Only under the regime that the government is trying to reinstate would the employer even know what an employee does with the certification decision. We on this side of the House are trying to free the worker from intimidation and undue influence by both sides in a certification dispute.

We see these four arguments: secret ballot voting is too costly, that it is too distracting, that it gives employers the ability to influence the outcome, and finally, that it makes it too difficult for a union to certify.

I guess the government could argue that the secret ballot is very dangerous in the election of Parliament because it might make it too difficult for Liberals to get elected in future votes. Right? It would just be too difficult. Therefore, let us find a simpler system that gives the Liberals the outcome they want. Of course, this is not about workers, unions, improving workplace dynamics, or rebalancing the scales. This is about taking power away from workers to give it to the powerful interest groups that helped elect the Liberal government.

We on this side continue to stand for the right of workers to vote to determine their own destiny, rather than having it imposed upon them by either the current government or any of the interest groups that elected it.

Therefore, I move, “That the motion be amended by deleting all of the words after the word 'that' and substituting the following: the amendments made by the Senate to C-4, An Act to amend the Canada Labour Code, the Parliamentary Employment and Staff Relations Act, the Public Service Labour Relations Act and the Income Tax Act be now read a second time and concurred in.”

I am thankful for the opportunity to make this motion. I will submit it to the dais, and I will give all members of the House the opportunity to reaffirm the Canadian commitment to democracy and one of its central pillars, the right of every man and every woman to carry out his or her franchise in secret, free from pressure and undue intimidation, and that we highly resolve that this democratic principle will exist across the land and in our workplaces.

Canada Labour CodeGovernment Orders

May 5th, 2017 / 10:55 a.m.
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Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Madam Speaker, we have heard this issue debated over many hours. When we sat in opposition with New Democrats and the Green Party, we told the Conservative government then that its approach to labour was wrong. Today's Prime Minister said at that time that what the Conservatives were doing was wrong.

Canadians understand what this government is doing. We are trying to restore harmony within the labour movement and management, and Bill C-4 would go a long way in achieving that. Bill C-4 is a priority for this government.

As the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour has said, over 200 members of the House of Commons voted in favour of this legislation. Now the Senate has disagreed with the House. Given the many hours that we have debated this issue and given the fact that Canadians, using democracy, voted in support of this government's approach to labour issues, why does that member believe that we have to deal with this issue again today, when the bill has been so overwhelmingly accepted by Canadians and by the House of Commons?

Admissibility of Amendment to Motion Regarding Bill C-4Points of OrderOral Questions

May 5th, 2017 / 12:05 p.m.
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Conservative

Candice Bergen Conservative Portage—Lisgar, MB

Madam Speaker, I am rising on a point of order. I understand that you are taking under advisement the admissibility of the amendment, moved by the member for Carleton, to the government's motion regarding the amendments made by the Senate to Bill C-4, so I would like to very briefly offer my argument in support of the admissibility of that amendment.

At page 532 of O'Brien and Bosc, it states, “A motion in amendment arises out of debate and is proposed either to modify the original motion in order to make it more acceptable to the House”. I believe that the amendment would do just that.

The Senate has amended Bill C-4 to uphold a fundamental principle of democracy, which is that the certification and decertification of a bargaining agent must be achieved by a secret ballot vote-based majority. Why the government wanted to take this away in the first place is perplexing, since it is proposing secret ballot elections in House committees.

At page 533 of O'Brien and Bosc, it states, “An amendment is out of order...if it is completely contrary to the main motion and would produce the same result as the defeat of the main motion”. Madam Speaker, I believe this may be the reason for your deliberations on the matter.

Would the defeat of the main motion to the Senate amendment made to Bill C-4 have the same effect as voting for the amendment proposed by my colleague? I believe that the answer is clearly no. If the government's motion were to be defeated, I would argue that nothing would happen. The government would need to come back with an alternative motion with a different proposition. However, if my colleague's amendment were to be adopted, both the House and the Senate will have adopted Bill C-4 in an identical form, and it would move to eventually receiving royal assent as amended.

As the Journals of June 6, 1923, at page 437, state, the Speaker ruled that an amendment to alter the main question by submitting a proposition with the opposite conclusion is not an “expanded negative” and may be moved.

This amendment indeed offers the opposite conclusion: that is, to accept the amendment made by the Senate that supports democracy. The government's motion rejects this democratic principle. Voting for or against the government's motion would have a different outcome than would voting for my colleague's amendment. Therefore, I ask that you, Madam Speaker, accept the amendment and allow this House to express its views on preserving a fundamental principle of democracy, which is that the certification and decertification of a bargaining agent must be achieved by a secret ballot vote-based majority.

Admissibility of Amendment to Motion Regarding Bill C-4Points of OrderGovernment Orders

May 5th, 2017 / 12:40 p.m.
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Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I am responding to the opposition House leader's intervention on the admissibility of the amendment proposed to the motion respecting Senate amendments to Bill C-4. Let me be clear. The motion rejects the amendments made by the Senate to Bill C-4. I submit that the amendment is out of order and procedural authorities and precedents support this argument.

Page 533 of the second edition of House of Commons Procedure and Practice states:

An amendment is out of order procedurally, if....

it is completely contrary to the main motion and would produce the same result as the defeat of the main motion....

The footnote that expands on the reference above is most relevant in this situation. It states:

Expanded negative amendments strike out all the words after “That” in a motion in order to substitute a proposition with the opposite conclusion of the original motion.

This is precisely what the amendment seeks to do: reverse the intent of the motion before the House. The appropriate course of action for members who oppose the motion is to vote against the motion. The procedural authorities and precedents are clear that the amendment is, indeed, out of order.

Canada Labour CodeGovernment Orders

October 19th, 2016 / 3:25 p.m.
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Liberal

Peter Fonseca Liberal Mississauga East—Cooksville, ON

Mr. Speaker, today I am privileged to reinforce the efforts of this government to ensure that Canada's labour laws best serve both employers and employees and fulfill their roles in growing Canada's economy. A fine balance is required in labour relations in the tripartite relationship between unions, employers, and government in establishing fair labour laws.

I will first address the important function played by unions in protecting the rights of Canadian workers and in helping the middle class grow and prosper.

Historically in Canada, unions have played a vital role, both in determining the way people are paid and in preserving people's rights in the workplace. A few of the many benefits that have been secured include the right to fair, safe working conditions; compensation for injury; and equitable labour relations. These three notable fruits of the work of Canadian unions benefit all Canadian employees.

The right to be treated fairly and without discrimination, according to the Canadian Labour Congress, is the most valued right that unions have pursued for workers. Minimum wages, employment insurance, and maternity leave are also workplace benefits that were pioneered by unions and that many of us share. Unions are and have been instrumental in developing the evolution of positive employment practices in Canada.

This government is working to ensure that labour law is balanced, equitable, and fair. Accordingly, Bill C-4 has been set forth by the government to restore fairness and balance to Canada's labour system. It is essential to this restoration of the balance of rights that Bills C-377 and C-525, both of which were supported by our predecessors, be repealed now. Bill C-4 would fulfill that function. It would rescind the provisions of two bills: one bill that causes undue interference and upsets balance and stability in labour relations, Bill C-525; and one that attempts to amend the Income Tax Act for no foreseeable benefit, and that turns out to be counterproductive to a positive working relationship between employers and employees.

Bill C-4 would restore a long-time system that worked well for decades. According to Bob Blakely of Canada's Building Trades Unions, it would restore fairness and respect for the confidentiality of union financial information by allowing unions to be treated like every other tax entity in Canada. The Government of Canada prizes the role that unions play in protecting the rights of Canadian workers and, in so doing, helping the middle class grow and prosper. Unions are a positive force in our economy. This government has also not forgotten that labour rights are human rights. Bill C-4 would restore and maintain those rights.

The repeal of these two bills is essential. The adoption of Bill C-4 would result in positive and productive outcomes, but in order to show these benefits clearly, it is necessary to outline the conditions of the bills and their counterproductive unfair defaults.

In Bill C-377, the intent was to require unions to show financial statements for expenses over $5,000 and salaries of more than $100,000. Unions were also supposed to provide statements related to expenditures on political and lobbying activities. All of the information was to be posted on a Canada Revenue Agency website. Keep in mind that legislation exists already to ensure that unions make financial information available to their members. Such legislation is evident in section 110 of the Canada Labour Code, with similar provisions in many provincial labour laws. In fact, some provinces feel encroached upon by this overriding of their responsibility. Redundancy is counterproductive. Labour unions are already transparent.

An amendment to the Income Tax Act forms the basis of Bill C-377. This amendment requires a plethora of yearly financial statements in prescribed formats and with prescribed information. So detailed are the requirements that at least 24 different highly specific statements must be included. This is an onerous annual task that, as set out in this bill, is a significant cost in dollars and time for unions, as well as for the Canada Revenue Agency. It has been suggested that tens of millions of dollars will be expended by the government to set up this system and by unions to be in compliance with this redundant process. The compliance and preparation costs remove funding from unions that is supposed to be used by them in their work with members, and the set-up and administration of the system removes funds from government for spending elsewhere.

These are all needless uses of union member dues and taxpayer dollars. Onerous, unnecessary tasks like this in Bill C-377 simply set up excessive and expensive red tape.

Intrusion and lack of privacy are results of both bills, Bill C-525 and C-377. Bill C-4 would omit such problems by reverting to former processes.

Bill C-377 requires labour organizations and associated organizations to report the details of every cumulative transaction over $5,000 and, as a result, invade the privacy of millions of union members, in addition to the privacy of any businesses that provide service to labour organization.

Not only are millions of workers subject to these statements, but also section 4 of Bill C-377 states that the information “shall be made available to the public by the Minister, including publication on the departmental Internet site in a searchable format.” Thus, all Canadians can have access to this highly specific and often quite personal material. Consider how this material could even interfere with effective collective bargaining when management is availed of the information in these statements. In fact, the Canadian Bar Association has suggested that privacy concerns may make Bill C-377 subject to legal challenges.

Bill C-525 attempts to supersede the simple, efficient, and time-honoured card check certification model for union certification by adding a separate mandatory vote system. Intrusion into union formation stands as the basis of Bill C-525.

The adoption of Bill C-4 would return a workable labour-management relationship, with the union conducting its own affairs in its own way. It would remove precedent-setting interference in labour organizations by management. Indeed, the provisions in Bill C-525 make it harder for unions to be certified, yet easier to be decertified. This disturbs the balance and stability in labour relations.

It is important for workers to make free and informed decisions without intrusion, as was provided through the previous federal labour relations system, a system that was respected by both labour and employees. Such intrusion in Bill C-377 and Bill C-525 should be obviated by our adoption of Bill C-4.

Discrimination against our unions is widely evident, including in Bill C-377. Other organizations, such as professional associations, receive favourable treatment under tax laws and are not subject to the intrusive, invasive, and expensive reporting mandated by Bill C-377. These other associations, sometimes federations, are freely formed in their own way, with no interference from management. Unlike the interference suggested in Bill C-525, the focus on unions in both bills is suspiciously inequitable.

Bill C-4 would restore impartiality and fair and equal treatment after the union movement in Canada was dealt a harsh, unreasonable set of blows by Bill C-377 and Bill C-525. In fact, they could just be the initial victims in these two possibly precedent-setting bills.

The Government of Canada values the role of unions in strengthening our economy and protecting the rights of Canadian workers. In this capacity, they help and encourage the middle class to flourish.

The government respects the right of unions to be treated fairly and without discrimination. To restore a balanced, equitable approach to labour relations, it is essential to support Bill C-4. Canada's labour laws must be fair. At least 18,000 labour organizations, along with millions of union members and, indeed, all employees in Canada will be thankful for the restoration of workers' rights if assent is given to BillC-4.

Canada Labour CodeGovernment Orders

October 19th, 2016 / 3:40 p.m.
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Conservative

Blaine Calkins Conservative Red Deer—Lacombe, AB

Mr. Speaker, it saddens me that this is likely the last time I am going to get to rise in the House and debate this piece of legislation, unless we have some type of miracle in the Senate that protects the rights of workers.

I want to thank my colleague for his speech, but I find the comments that he made to be paramount in their hypocrisy when it comes to what he is actually saying. It does not make any sense to me. He said as the former labour minister for Ontario that Ontario had it right. Guess what workers in Ontario get to do when they are asked if they want to be part of a union or not? They get the right to a secret ballot.

The member talked about the rights of workers. These are workers' rights and human rights, so what about the right to vote? What about the right to know where a person's legislatively mandated union dues go? Those union dues are tax deductible at the expense of about half a billion dollars for the taxpayers of Canada. What about the rights of all those people to know how that money is actually spent?

We know. We do not have to rely on the misinformation campaign by the member opposite. We can simply look at the polling information that has been done time and time again, which has resulted in the very same regressive laws that the Liberal Party, with the support of the NDP, is going back to. These laws have been changed in virtually every other democracy in the world that we would consider to be our peers, and in the provinces of our very own country. The United States, for example, has mandatory secret ballot voting for workers to decide whether or not they want to be in a union. Various countries in Europe have the same thing. Various provinces in Canada have the exact same thing.

I do not know any members of Parliament who have stood in the House and said that a constituent asked them when once elected by a secret ballot to trundle off to Ottawa, rise in their places and make some speech about things that are flowery but do not make any sense whatsoever. I do not know of any members whose constituents have asked for their ability to see where their tax dollars or union dues are spent to be taken away. I do not know of any members who have said that their constituents have asked them to take away their ability to have a secret ballot vote because they do not want to make that decision on their own behalf. It is tomfoolery. That is absolutely ludicrous.

The Liberals talk a great game about union bosses and they talk a great game about employers, but they never talk about what an actual worker wants. Unionized workers are the people who actually pay the dues. They are not the people who live off the dues. They are not the people necessarily who subsidize the union dues. Unionized workers are the people who go to work and show up with their lunch pails in their hands every day. They are the people who pay these union dues.

Leger as recently as 2013 asked for people's opinion on the secret ballot when a union is formed or removed from a workplace. Across the country, 69% of Canadians completely agreed and 17% somewhat agreed. We are talking numbers north of 75% to 80% in the various regions of this country of unionized workers who absolutely want the right to have a mandatory secret ballot vote to verify whether or not they want to be members of a union. What is so wrong with supporting that notion? It is absolutely mind-boggling to me. This would be tantamount to members of Parliament knocking on doors in their constituencies during a byelection or a general election campaign with ballots in hand. They bring along two of the biggest people they know who stand right behind them and they tell the person who answers the door that it might be in his or her best interests to vote for them right there, right now. That is called card checking and that is sometimes how it is played out. I have heard that from my constituents.

The Liberals and the NDP like to claim that it was the previous Conservative government's notion to put this bill forward. I did it. I put Bill C-525 forward and I did it because I heard from workers in my riding that they were not getting the accountability that they wanted.

I do not think as a member of Parliament that I should be reaching into the internal operations of a union, but I do believe as a member of Parliament that I have a responsibility to give every accountability measure I can to workers so they can understand where their money is being spent, so they have the ability to see where it is being spent, and so they have the ability to hold that union to account if it is not doing a good job spending their union dues.

Absolutely, this is the right way to solve this problem. Give people the tools to look after themselves, and they will do it. I could go on about this poll.

Opinions on the disclosure of financial information is the other aspect of the bill. It is clear that the Liberals are simply promising things to their friends. Nobody in their right mind would actually take away financial transparency provisions in any piece of legislation. We move forward on transparency when it comes to letting taxpayers know where their dollars are being spent and letting people know what investments are being made on their behalf, but no, that is not what is happening here through Bill C-4, by the Liberal government, with the support of the New Democrats, the Green Party, and the Bloc Québécois. Only Conservatives actually want to let people know where their money is being spent.

It does not just stop at unions. They are doing the same thing by not enforcing the first nations financial transparency accountability legislation. The Liberals have aligned themselves with the elite at the top, the union bosses, the reserve chiefs, the band chiefs and council members. They are not actually looking after the so-called middle-class, everyday, ordinary person either living on reserve or carrying their lunch pail every day to their job.

This is a matter of saying one thing, and doing absolutely the opposite. Members do not have to trust me, but if they do not take my word for it, let us take a look at the opinion on disclosure of financial information. Respondents were asked for their opinion on the disclosure of financial information without giving them a preamble, and the majority of employed Canadians completely or somewhat agreed that it should be mandatory for unions to publicly disclose detailed financial information on a regular basis.

How many completely agreed? Not one region of this country actually had anything less than 60% who completely agreed, and nothing less than 16% for somewhat agreed for totals of north of 80%, again, on almost all of these indicators, 80%, when asked in a poll.

These are numbers that most people could only dream of getting in an election. I know, because I got it once. Having this kind of a mandate to be able to go forward and do something is wonderful. This is what Canadians want. This is what they expect. This is what they deserve. This is, however, what is being taken away from them.

If we take a look at the opinion on union due uses, most union workers might not actually know where their union dues are being spent. More than eight out of 10 employed Canadians completely or somewhat disagreed with using union dues to fund attack ads against a political party or making contributions to political parties, or making contributions to advocacy groups unrelated to their workplace needs.

The fact that that question needs to be asked at all in a poll is indicative of the problem, a problem that can be resolved by, one, shedding light on where the money is being spent, and two, giving people the right to vote on what their best interest is based on the performance of the union that is representing them or wanting to represent them.

I simply cannot fathom why anybody would want to take away somebody's right to a secret ballot vote, and take away somebody's right to see where their money is being spent on their behalf.

I have to appeal to the better angels in this place, the ones who know and understand what fairness is all about, the ones who stand up and speak for transparency, who speak in favour of accountability. These people need to stick to their convictions and vote against this regressive piece of legislation, taking us back to a time where nobody knows where the money is being spent, and taxpayers cannot be assured where their taxpayer-funded union due deductions are being spent, and where workers actually have the ability, each and every time, to decide if they want to be in the union, to recertify to be in the union, or to decertify.

The process under Bill C-525 made decertification and certification exactly the same, and yet the Liberals and the NDP and the other parties in this House say that it is now unbalanced, when it is exactly the same. It is in balance. We do not drive around with 15 pounds of pressure in the front left tire and 60 pounds of pressure in the front right tire. That is not how it works.

In conclusion, I can only say how proud I was as a member of Parliament to have a mandate from a secret ballot vote to come to this place to present a private member's bill that changed the legislation for the betterment of workers in this country, and I will stand by them all the way, regardless of what the government tries to do.

CANADA LABOUR CODEGovernment Orders

September 26th, 2016 / 11:55 a.m.
See context

Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Madam Speaker, as many will know, when there is an opportunity to talk about the issue of labour relations in Canada, as much as possible people can count on the fact that I love to be able to share my thoughts on what I believe is a very important issue. It is an important issue not only for me but also for the Prime Minister and the Liberal caucus as a whole. That is very clearly demonstrated in the degree to which labour relations has been made a parliamentary priority by the government.

I can recall having discussions about labour-related legislation prior to our being in government, when we discussed two private members' bills. I will comment on that because at times it was fairly emotional for my colleagues opposite when we indicated the manner in which the past government, the Harper government, had changed the labour laws.

One of the discussions that took place had to do with the sense of unfairness about what the Conservative government was doing at the time in introducing private members' legislation. Therefore, no one should be surprised that the new government, led by our current Prime Minister, has made a fairly bold statement that we want to establish a new attitude and a new relationship between labour and management, given the harm caused by the former government. It did not take long for our new government and the Prime Minister to bring forward legislation that will ultimately assists in setting the stage.

Bill C-4 is a genuine and effective attempt to repeal legislation that was previously introduced in the House by private members. I was there during the debate when those private members' bills were brought forward to fulfill what we believed at the time was the Conservative Harper government's agenda with respect to labour relations.

Over the years, I have had the opportunity to walk on picket lines and to support workers. I have had opportunity to meet with management groups to talk about labour relations. I understand the importance of balance. At one point, I was even the labour critic in the Province of Manitoba. I understand how important it is that there be balance, because balance is what provides for an effective bargaining process.

Although we have only held the reins of power here at the national level for a relatively few months, I believe we have made significant strides forward. I was really encouraged by our ministries here today that were so effective in sending the message to Canada Post and the union not to expect the current government to jump in with back-to-work legislation.

The government's expectation is that the stakeholders in this case, the management and the union, will be able to negotiate in good faith. I believe that in good part they have understood that the government wants to see that different attitude toward negotiations and that it believes it is in their best interest, both management and the labour side of Canada Post, to reach a negotiated agreement. In essence, that is what we have witnessed. When there is an opportunity for a negotiated agreement between the stakeholders, I believe this is what we should be striving for at all times. I do not believe the previous government really appreciated that fact.

Hansard will clearly demonstrate that I would comment back then that everyone knew at the time that the government of the day would institute back-to-work legislation virtually immediately if a strike took place. How did that influence negotiations? It was not just in respect of Canada Post. Indeed, the government needs, as much as possible, to respect and allow for negotiations in good faith. It does not necessarily mean that we are limited. We act in the best interests of Canadians at all times.

The former government did not recognize the importance of labour harmony. That is one of the reasons why we, as a government, had to deal with labour legislation right from the get-go. That is exactly what our Prime Minister and our government did with the introduction of Bill C-4. First reading was back in January and the bill was brought forward for second reading in February.

What was the Conservative Party's official response? The Government of Canada said that Bill C-4 was a priority piece of legislation and that we should debate it. Back then, the Conservatives did not think twice. They brought forward an amendment to the legislation. The amendment read:

That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word “that” and substituting the following therefor: “this House decline to give second reading to Bill C-4, An Act to amend the Canada Labour Code, the Parliamentary Employment and Staff Relations Act, the Public Service Labour Relations Act and the Income Tax Act, because the bill violates a fundamental principle of democracy by abolishing the provision whereby the certification and decertification of a bargaining agent must be achieved by a secret ballot vote-based majority”.

Right away, the Conservative Party attempted to reject Bill C-4. It did that because it prefers those private members' bills, no matter who was offended by them. I am very proud that the government continued to push forward boldly with the legislation, understandably so, and we saw it go to committee.

When we deal with bills like C-525, C-377, and C-4, they go to committee and we get all sorts of different types of presentations on them. However, in this case, both labour and management argued that the approach established by Bill C-525 and Bill C-377 set a dangerous precedent for labour relations and law reform, wherein the tripartite consultation process—referring to employer, union, and government—had traditionally been considered as essential by the stakeholder to maintaining a workable labour-management balance.

We saw both sides make that claim. Many members in the Liberal caucus have raised that issue. I listened to my colleague from Atlantic Canada, when he was the critic for labour, stand up many times and articulate how important that balance was and how we had to respect the importance of the stakeholders. That was one of the fundamental flaws with the private members' bills that were being advanced at the time, which we are repealing through this legislation.

We have an hour of private members' business every day, almost without exception. There was substantive labour legislation. When changes are made to labour legislation, there is an obligation to take those stakeholders, the labour and management sides, and bring them to the table and sit down with them to get a good understanding of where consensus could actually to built. That allows the government to be involved in this well-established process that has proven to be fairly effective in Canada. Other jurisdictions look to Canada to see how we are able to provide balance between labour and management, and the different stakeholders.

That is something that is so critical, yet both of those private members' bills did not go through that process. In fact, if we had applied the same rules of procedure to Bill C-4 as we did to the two private members' bills, then we would not be debating the bill right now. The bill would have been limited in terms of the amount of time allowed for debate.

Members know full well that a private member's bill is treated quite differently than a government initiative or government legislation. There is more debate time for government bills. There is a different process, whether it is the lead-up, the making of the legislation, ensuring that there is that consultation and that the consensus is built between and labour management, all the way to the second reading, third reading, report stage, and so forth.

There are time limits that are instituted in our rules to deal with private members' bills. That is why many thought it was intentional on the part of the Harper government to have private members bring legislation in through the back door. We have made reference to that in the past. Many on the other side get very upset or are offended when we talk about that back door approach, but they need to recognize that there is a difference in the process. That offended both labour and management stakeholders. At the time, the Harper government completely ignored that.

Now we are going through the process. What was Bill C-525? It was the Employees' Voting Rights Act. It was introduced in the House of Commons as a private member's bill on June 5, 2013, by the Conservative member for Red Deer—Lacombe. The bill received royal assent on December 16, 2014, and ultimately came into force on June 16, 2015. It suggested that the card check certification model, which we believe is quicker, more efficient, and more likely to be free of employer interference, was something the Conservative Party adamantly disagreed with. It articulated that it needed to be gotten rid of.

However, it did not go through the process. The private member, heavily supported by the government, brought forward that piece of legislation and it offended a great number of people, not only union personnel.

Then Bill C-377, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (requirements for labour organizations), was introduced in the House of Commons on December 5, 2011, again by a Conservative member. The bill ultimately did pass on December 12, 2012. On June 26, 2013, amendments were made to the bill in the Senate and it was referred back to the House of Commons for review; however, the bill was restored back to its original version. Keep in mind, that was a majority Conservative Senate. Even the Senate recognized the imbalances being caused by this piece of legislation, but the Harper government used its majority to kick it back. Ultimately it was accepted and then put into force after royal assent in June 2015 and took effect in December 2015.

It is no wonder we have made this a high priority for this government. We heard some criticisms at the time about Bill C-377. That it could upset the existing labour relations balance between unions and employers was a comment we heard continuously, whether it was through debates or at the committee stage. That union financial disclosure was already addressed in the Canada Labour Code and in many provincial labour statutes was also something that was raised on many occasions, as well as why the Conservative government was singling out unions. What was the driving factor behind the Conservatives doing that?

It must be pointed out that the bill is discriminatory against unions and ignores other types of organizations such as professional associations, which also receive favourable treatment under taxation law. The bill would invade the privacy of labour organizations and their members.

It is interesting to note that the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees launched a constitutional challenge to Bill C-377. I understand that challenge is now in abeyance until we see what takes place with Bill C-4. There were a great many concerns dealing with privacy. Even the Canadian Bar Association and the Office of the Privacy Commissioner provided comments to that effect. The CBA suggested that the bill may be subject to legal challenges on those grounds alone.

It is amazing the number of provinces that voiced opposition to Bill C-377. A majority of the provinces also criticized the bill for potentially crossing over and destabilizing the labour relations environment. This is where I started my discussion. When we talk about Bill C-4, it is all about righting a wrong. It is restoring a sense of fairness and balance to our labour laws and that is of the utmost importance.

The Conservative government lost touch with Canadians on labour issues, as it lost touch on many different issues with Canadians. Bill C-4 is a good bill and should be supported by all members because it brings back and restores balance to labour relations.