Mr. Speaker, as always, it is an honour to rise in the House to represent the amazing folks of Essex. I give all my thanks to God for giving me the opportunity.
Just a couple of weeks ago, I lost my momma. If the House would allow it, I would like to share a few words before I dive into Bill C-58.
Mom would text me during question period to say, “Christopher, you are not wearing a tie today, so you must not be speaking.” Mom would also text me to say, “Christopher, stop chewing gum”, “Smile”, or “Christopher, wake up.”
The little things in life get us through, and the real little things in life were mom's chocolate chip cookies. Mom was known on the Hill for her chocolate chip cookies. However, if a member did something bad, I would get a text saying that the member would not be getting a chocolate chip cookie that day.
She was a servant. She served beyond belief. She is the great reason I am where I am, and why I am who I am.
Although those texts have come to a very abrupt end, after she spent only 13 days in hospital battling cancer, her legacy lives on. If my dad and my brothers Jeff and Kim are watching, I want them to know that Helen, our momma, is in the House of Commons with us all here today. As I promised momma at her bedside, I will make her proud and live to serve. I love her. I thank the House for indulging me.
Bill C-58 has two main elements. First, it would ban the use of replacement workers in federally regulated workplaces, such as banks, airports and telecommunications, but not in the federal public service. It would replace an existing, albeit much more limited, prohibition on the use of replacement workers in the Canada Labour Code.
Second, Bill C-58 would amend the maintenance of activities process to encourage not only quicker agreement between employers and trade unions on what activities should be maintained in the case of a strike or a lockout, but also faster decision-making by the Canada Industrial Relations Board in this connection. The provisions of Bill C-58 would only apply to federally regulated workers. If enacted, the provisions of Bill C-58 would enter into force 18 months after royal assent has been received.
It brings forward a lot of questions and a lot of discussion. I would start by saying that I am very proud to be the shadow minister, the critic, for labour. I have travelled across this country, literally from coast to coast to coast, speaking with both unionized and non-unionized workers in places such as Halifax; St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador; Vancouver, at the Port of Vancouver; and Montreal.
I have been across this country, meeting with both unionized and non-unionized workforces, their management teams, and the folks with their boots on the ground. What I hear all the time is them saying, “Just let me go to work. I want to go to work. I don't really want to be on strike. What I really want to do is have a good-paying job so I can ultimately feed my family, put diapers on my babies, fill their little mouths with pablum and afford to buy my wife some flowers. I can't do that when I'm on strike.”
At the end of the day, we have seen an unprecedented amount of strikes across this country over the last number of years. Every time I turn around, we are dealing with another strike. Why is that? One has to really wonder if it is the cost of living. Is it the cost of food, which our workers cannot afford? Is it the high interest rates? Is it the carbon tax on fuel and food? Is that the reason why? It always goes back to the same question: Why are we seeing an unprecedented amount of strikes? We have to believe that it is due to inflation. It is due to the cost of living, as well as uncertainty, no doubt.
I will speak quickly to the topic of the Stellantis battery plant in Windsor. One good thing about Air Canada is that it is almost always delayed, which allows me more time to speak to my constituents back home when I am at the airport.
Last night, I spoke to someone at IBEW, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, who said what the problem is. We have an amazing workforce here in Canada of electrical workers. They are bringing them in from Manitoba and Alberta. They are there in Windsor. They are literally in Windsor to start to work. However, they are very concerned about all of the folks potentially being brought in from South Korea to do all work. In the past, those workers did all the work at tier 2 and tier 3. They have done all that work. He said he understood that 10, 20 or 30 people may need to be brought in to program the computers, but the rest of it they already know how to do.
Then I spoke to the carpenter's union, and they said the same thing. They have the whole workforce there. Why are folks being brought in from other places to do the work that they, quite frankly, are trained to do?
The part of this bill that is somewhat confusing to me is that it is only for federally regulated workers. It does not apply to federally regulated public sector workers. If the government is going to tell businesses that there will be no replacement workers, why would the government not do it for itself? It makes one wonder.
We have had amazing, amazing yields in southwestern Ontario this year from our farmers. Some of the highest bumper crops that we have see in a long time. About 90% to 92% of our grain is exported. If we cannot get the grain onto the ships and overseas, we have a major issue, and we have a major issue right now.
There was just an issue on the Great Lakes, which, by the way, got solved. It is like what was reported yesterday in the news about No Frills. The issue with workers at No Frills was solved yesterday, just like at the Port of Montreal and the Port of Vancouver. How were they solved? They were solved at the table through democracy. There is always a solution when we speak. There is always a solution when people come to the table to have good, fair, strong, respectful dialogue. That is how things get solved.
Because I sit on the transport committee, am a bona fide farmer and was a businessman, my concern is that this potential legislation could drive fewer jobs for the country. It is a matter of fact that this could drive potential Canadian business investment away from Canada, which would ultimately mean fewer jobs.
Ironically, at 9 a.m. tomorrow, I head to the Senate to do my darnedest to get Bill C-241, my private member's bill, through committee. Bill C-241 is a bill that would allow the writeoff of travel expenses for both unionized and non-unionized skilled trades workers. I do not know of anyone in the House who would disagree with me when I say that Canada is absolutely in a major housing crisis, and Bill C-241 would allow the mobility of our skilled trades, both unionized and non-unionized workers, to travel across the country.
I look at Stellantis and the entire project, the upwards of $50 billion for the three battery plants, and I know one thing for sure: We need skilled trade workers at those sites. However, I also know that we need to build homes from coast to coast to coast. Hopefully, tomorrow the Senate will give us the green light, so to speak, and Bill C-241 will get through the Senate to support our skilled trade workers.
For clarity, for anybody watching at home, and I am sure a lot are watching me, this is only for federally regulated workers. This does not dive into the provinces and their regulations.
This is going to sound goofy, but during the Port of Vancouver strike, a message was left at my office, and I called the gentleman back. He said he owns a coffee shop, but he cannot get any cups for the coffee, so he will have to shut his doors because he ordered the cups from overseas. It sounds small and insignificant, but that is one more business that shut its doors, is not paying taxes, that is not employing people or laying them off. It is one more business that Canada is, quite frankly, bleeding.
There is nothing more important than our labour force. My father always said it best. Someone can have the greatest widget in the world, but they cannot build it and they cannot sell it without people. There is not a business I know of that is not about the people, and they only ever will be.
The answer is very simple: Get to the table, get the folks at the table and have a conversation. Deliberations have worked in the past. That is where the answer lies.
In closing, I will just finish with the following. I come from the business world but I also was boots on the ground. In my role as shadow minister for labour, I met some pretty extraordinary folks. I think about the folks at the ILWU out in Vancouver, who treated me with so much respect when I visited them two or three times. I think about the folks out in Halifax and St. John's, Newfoundland. I think about the folks in my own backyard in Essex. Again, it is resounding that it is only about the people.
There is only one way that we are going to rebuild Canada, that Canada is going to be built, that we are going to have enough homes, that we are going to have the manufacturing and we are going to be on the front line in leading-edge technology, and that is with people. However, they need to be Canadian people. They cannot be folks from overseas who are taking away the jobs of Canadians.
I want to thank the Speaker for allowing me to celebrate my mother and allowing me to have a bit of freedom in my speech today. I am so darn passionate and compassionate when it comes to our labour force and it means the world to me.