Evidence of meeting #4 for Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was unions.

A video is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Anthony Giles  Assistant Deputy Minister, Policy, Dispute Resolution and International Affairs, Labour Program, Department of Employment and Social Development
Blaine Langdon  Chief, Charities, Personal Income Tax Division, Tax Policy Branch, Department of Finance
Costa Dimitrakopoulos  Director General, Legislative Policy Directorate, Legislative Policy and Regulatory Affairs Branch, Canada Revenue Agency

4 p.m.

Liberal

Ramesh Sangha Liberal Brampton Centre, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Many supporters of Bill C-377 and Bill C-525 have dismissed the criticism that they harm, not help, labour relations because they were done through private members' bills, outside the established tripartite process that has been followed for decades to make major amendments to the Canada Labour Code.

Could you explain to the committee the normal process to make major amendments and the importance of the process for stability in labour relations?

4 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bryan May

You have about one minute, Minister.

4 p.m.

Liberal

MaryAnn Mihychuk Liberal Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Let me try to understand the question. What is the difference between card check versus voting, or...?

4 p.m.

Liberal

Ramesh Sangha Liberal Brampton Centre, ON

No, no. My question is simple. Generally our laws are not made through private members' bills. These bills are both private members' bills with remedial law, remedial enactment. I'm wondering about the effect.

March 21st, 2016 / 4:05 p.m.

Liberal

MaryAnn Mihychuk Liberal Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Okay. I understand.

The process of any kind of labour law change requires the involvement and participation of three major constituents. Typically we would work with the labour movement, industrial associations and business groups, and government. All three would then come forward with a system that is vigorously reviewed and is beneficial to all three models.

In this case, that process of consultation was exempted. That resulted in difficulties between all three parties, quite frankly.

4:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bryan May

Thank you.

Ms. Ashton.

4:05 p.m.

NDP

Niki Ashton NDP Churchill—Keewatinook Aski, MB

I'll be giving my time to my colleague, our critic for labour, Sheri Benson.

4:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bryan May

Welcome.

4:05 p.m.

NDP

Sheri Benson NDP Saskatoon West, SK

Thank you very much.

Welcome, Minister, and congratulations on your appointment.

I want to give a big shout-out to communities right across Canada, trade unions, labour unions, and citizens groups who spoke out against the two bills we're talking about, Bill C-377 and Bill C-525.

Having come from the charitable sector and having experienced the previous government's sort of chill on the work we did, and of course the pieces under the guise of accountability around first nations, to me this is something along those lines that we need to repeal. We're on side, and I'm glad we're doing it. It's unfortunate we have to spend time going backwards to get where we were 10 years ago. However, I commend you on that.

You did bring up the Canada Labour Code, and I did want to take this opportunity to speak about that. We know the Canada Labour Code is about 60 years out of date. There was a review with some recommendations that were never implemented. I'm wondering if I could take this opportunity to ask the minister about a possible timeline or some idea for the committee about updating and modernizing the Canada Labour Code.

4:05 p.m.

Liberal

MaryAnn Mihychuk Liberal Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

I am aware the labour code needs revision, and we intend to bring in changes. We have already started the discussion on changes on flex time and the fact that we have a huge number of Canadians who are vulnerable workers no longer protected by trade unions and no longer protected and supported by EI. Unfortunately, a lot of them disproportionately are women and single mothers who are trying to juggle family and work.

We will be consulting and bringing in changes to the labour code so it becomes more sensitive to the new realities. We will be consulting with Canadians on those changes. They include things like flex time and parental leave, looking at somehow ensuring that fathers can participate more fully, looking at helping women who wish to pursue their careers and perhaps for family reasons are more likely to stay at home.

We will be coming out with changes. I'm hoping we'll see something by the fall session.

4:05 p.m.

NDP

Sheri Benson NDP Saskatoon West, SK

Thank you very much, Minister.

I'd like to take the opportunity to suggest that for a lot of Canadians, life is becoming unaffordable. We know that one important thing when we talk about labour rights and the rights of workers is the right to earn a living and to afford to live. That's more of a comment, but I'd like to hear your thoughts on it. Part of that would be to look at the Canada Labour Code.

I think we need to start the conversation about having a federal minimum wage. We're the only jurisdiction in the country that doesn't have that for federally regulated workers. Could you offer us a comment on whether that will be part of your work this year and in the fall?

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

MaryAnn Mihychuk Liberal Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

When we look at any program federally, we need to be cautious. If you look at temporary foreign workers, the whole idea that there's one standard system that's applicable for the whole country hasn't worked. Even if there are other programs that are dependent on the business climate of a jurisdiction, we need to be very careful. At this time that issue is addressed by the provincial standards on minimum wage.

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bryan May

You have time for a quick question.

4:10 p.m.

NDP

Sheri Benson NDP Saskatoon West, SK

I hear what you're saying. I do think it is our role as a part of the federal jurisdiction to provide the same protection of minimum wage that we do to those workers who work provincially.

I'm strongly urging a $15 minimum wage. It's 2016 for a lot of things. I think one of those things is a federal minimum wage.

Thank you.

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bryan May

Next, we have Ms. Tassi.

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

Filomena Tassi Liberal Hamilton West—Ancaster—Dundas, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Welcome, Minister, and thank you for your presence here.

Has the department done any research on card check versus mandatory vote?

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

MaryAnn Mihychuk Liberal Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Yes, we have. In fact, the department produced a report back in 2013. At that time the minister was Kellie Leitch, who said, “In this study, we examined the link between the adoption of a mandatory vote regime and this decline in business sector union density.”

As I mentioned before, we've seen a decrease in unionization over the last few decades. We found the use of the mandatory voting, MV, regime has been an important factor in the decline in union density in the Canadian business sector. It was estimated that, had all Canadian jurisdictions not used an MV regime for union certification starting in 1997, business sector union density would have been substantially higher in 2012. Simulations show that union density would have increased by around half a percentage point from 1997 instead of dropping by four percentage points.

I'd like to table the report for the committee. I think it's very interesting to see the statistics on the effects of mandatory voting versus card check. The card check system has been proven over the years to be very satisfactory, very efficient, and democratic. It has worked well. The change actually reduced unionization.

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

Filomena Tassi Liberal Hamilton West—Ancaster—Dundas, ON

Thank you, Minister. To follow up on that, you mentioned that the report is dated November 2013. Is that right?

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

MaryAnn Mihychuk Liberal Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

November 2013.

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

Filomena Tassi Liberal Hamilton West—Ancaster—Dundas, ON

Okay.

Bill C-525 was passed in April 2014. Is that correct?

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

MaryAnn Mihychuk Liberal Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Yes.

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

Filomena Tassi Liberal Hamilton West—Ancaster—Dundas, ON

Was the department's research publicly available? I'm just wondering why the report was dated November 2013 and the bill was passed in 2014.

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

MaryAnn Mihychuk Liberal Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

No, it was not made publicly available. It was internal departmental research. It was of course available to the minister, to exempt staff, and one would assume to the Prime Minister's Office. This would have been part of the rationale for bringing in the bills when they did.

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

Filomena Tassi Liberal Hamilton West—Ancaster—Dundas, ON

Okay, thank you. I'm just curious as to why, if you have a report that actually supports the card check process, the evidence-based report would be hidden or kept from the public when this was the very issue that was being discussed.

Do you have any further comments on why a report that would support the current system would be hidden and not be circulated and supported? It's based on evidence and research that's been done. Do you have any reason or knowledge as to why it was not made public?

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

MaryAnn Mihychuk Liberal Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

This is a bit of speculation, and I wasn't in the Conservative caucus, although there were members that I came to officially see in my role as a member of the exploration industry in Canada. I know many of the members of the former government. Business people generally want harmony in the workplace.

There are sometimes political agendas that go well beyond what business would find reasonable or even asked for. In this case I think the bills were clearly an attack on organized labour at a time when it wasn't called for and wasn't merited.

The decision to unionize really comes down to Canadians themselves. More and more of our young generation are looking at new models of employment and are not choosing to become unionized. That's by their choice. They don't need a heavy-handed government to bring in tricks that make unionization more difficult. They have the intelligence and we have the faith that Canadians are choosing the right way. It seemed to be a purely political decision because the overall trend, as the report shows, is that Canadians were choosing not to become unionized. This isn't a serious threat to businesses, and in fact, the report indicates that it wasn't warranted.

One would have to conclude that it was a political agenda.