House of Commons Hansard #102 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was property.


10 a.m.

The Speaker

I am going to take a point of order from the hon. member for St. Albert before we go to orders of the day.

Point Of Order

10 a.m.


John Williams Reform St. Albert, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order to argue against the amendments introduced by the government in the other place and on the Order Paper to be debated in this House today regarding Bill C-42, an act to amend the Judges Act and to make consequential amendments to another act.

This is not a matter for a public bill but should instead be introduced as a private bill. Now that the other place has passed Bill C-42 as amended, the bill stands as some sort of hybrid public-private bill. Therefore the motion of the Minister of Justice to concur in the bill as amended cannot proceed because it would be a breach of our rules to do so.

I refer to a ruling by the Speaker on October 23, 1975 regarding a bill entitled "an act for the parole of Dr. Henry Morgentaler". The Speaker ruled:

The fact of the matter is that the bill before us at the present time is a proposal to exempt or to except from the operation of the general law, one person, namely Dr. Henry Morgentaler. I cannot by any stretch of the imagination be persuaded that this is a subject matter of a public bill, or that it is in any way the alteration of the general law. It is the alteration or the exception for one person of the application of the law, which seems crystal clear to me to be the subject matter of a private bill and not a public bill.

The Speaker continued:

-we are left with no other choice than to decide the matter is really a proper subject matter not of a public bill but of a private bill.

On October 2, 1996 the Speaker of the other House responded to a question by a senator to rule on whether or not Bill C-42, the bill we are currently discussing, prior to it being amended by this motion, was a public bill or a private bill. The Speaker of the other House said on page 921 of the Senate Debates :

A public bill relates to a matter of public policy while a private bill relates to a matter of particular interest or benefit to a person or persons. A bill containing provisions which are essentially a feature of a private bill cannot be introduced as a public bill. A bill designed to exempt one person from the application of the law is a private bill, not a public bill.

Remember he was giving his ruling prior to this particular amendment being tabled. He went on to say:

-while some of the changes may relate at the moment to identifiable individuals, they are designed to have lasting application; consequently, they are not in any way an exemption from the general law, but a change to it. Given this interpretation, it seems clear to me that Bill C-42 is a public bill, and not a private bill.

That was before the amendment was introduced and the bill passed in the Senate as amended.

Mr. Speaker, as you are aware the amendments to Bill C-42 delete any vestige of policy that is designed to have lasting application. All public policy in Bill C-42 regarding a judge's ability to accept assignments with international organizations has been removed and substituted by a special exemption to be written into the Judges Act to allow Madam Justice Louise Arbour to accept an assignment with an international organization. One person, one exemption and no lasting application.

Obviously the amendment to Bill C-42 clearly meets the criteria laid out by the Speaker of the other House on what constitutes a private bill.

In addition, citation 1055 of Beauchesne's sixth edition outlines principles for a private bill:

-private bills demand peculiar vigilance, lest public laws be likely set aside for the benefit of particular persons or places.

The amendment introduced by the government in the other place sets a public law aside for the benefit of one particular person. I emphasize that the manner in which it is being done fosters less vigilance rather than more. It sets aside section 55 of the Judges Act specifically for Madam Justice Louise Arbour to take a leave from her judicial duties to serve as prosecutor of the international tribunal for the prosecution of persons responsible for serious violations of international humanitarian law committed in the territory of the former Yugoslavia and of the international tribunal for Rwanda.

One could argue that we are dealing with only one section of the bill and that there are other aspects of public policy contained within the bill. The fact that some provisions of the bill are of a private nature is sufficient grounds to prevent Bill C-42 as amended by the government and the other place from proceeding any further.

Mr. Speaker, I refer you to a ruling from March 12, 1875. The bill under consideration was a bill to rearrange the capital of the Northern Railway Company of Canada to enable the said company to change the gauge of its railway to amalgamate with the Northern Extension Railways Company and for other purposes. It is important to note that only some of the provisions of this bill were of a private nature. When this fact was brought to the attention of the Speaker in 1875, he ruled that the point of order was well taken and that the bill could not be introduced as a public bill.

Bill C-42 as amended contains provisions only appropriate in a private bill. What we now have before us is a motion to retroactively create some sort of hybrid public-private bill. Erskine May's 21st edition, at page 793, gives two reasons for hybrid bills:

-although in part they may be of a private nature, their main object is a public one; and secondly, that there may be no parties able and willing to present a petition.

Bill C-42 does not meet this definition because Madam Justice Louise Arbour is able to present a petition.

However, in the Canadian practice, public matters and private matters must be dealt with separately.

Mr. Speaker, I refer you to Beauchesne's sixth edition, citation 623, which states: "According to Canadian standing orders and practice, there are only two kinds of bills-public and private. The British hybrid bill", as defined by Erskine May, "is not recognized in Canadian practice".

There is a procedure in our rules for private bills and a procedure for public bills. The government cannot go down the middle on this one. It must go back to the drawing board and present a public bill to deal with the provisions of Bill C-42 which are of a public nature and if petitioned, a member can introduce a private bill to exempt Madam Justice Louise Arbour from the public policy.

Mr. Speaker, I suggest that we do not proceed any further with the motion to concur in Bill C-42 as amended until you have made your ruling on this matter of procedure.

Point Of Order

10:10 a.m.

Fundy Royal New Brunswick


Paul Zed LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I have listened carefully to the point of order raised by my hon. colleague. Frankly and with the greatest of respect I have to say that this is clearly not a private matter. It is a matter of public policy to permit the hon. Madam Justice involved to make the comments which she has made.

The point that is important to remember in the point of order which has been raised is that we do not have a bill before us. We merely have a message from the Senate concerning amendments. Therefore, the 1975 precedent which has been cited by my hon. colleague in my view respectfully is irrelevant. We are dealing with a message from the Senate in exactly the same manner as prescribed by the standing orders and the commentaries in those standing orders.

If the House wishes to reject the amendments, then it is certainly free to vote against the motion. It is not for the Chair, respectfully, to interpose itself between the Houses. It is for the House to be permitted to declare its views on this matter.

That is my respectful submission on the point of order raised by my hon. colleague.

Point Of Order

10:10 a.m.

The Speaker

Is the hon. member for St. Albert rising on the same point of order?

Point Of Order

10:10 a.m.


John Williams Reform St. Albert, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is on the same point of order. If I may be permitted a short rebuttal to the-

Point Of Order

10:15 a.m.

The Speaker

It will have to be very short. I do not want to get into a debate. Everything should be presented to the Chair on your first pass.

Point Of Order

10:15 a.m.


John Williams Reform St. Albert, AB

Mr. Speaker, I did that. However, I would just draw one point to your attention. Bill C-42 as it was passed in the House was ruled by the Speaker of the other place to be a matter of public policy. The Speaker said the wording of the bill was specific in a public policy manner to allow Madam Justice Louise Arbour to be the prosecutor, the position she currently holds.

The point is that the public policy ran into a problem in the other place. The government withdrew the public policy and introduced a specific exception to section 55 of the Judges Act for Madam Justice Louise Arbour.

I would also draw attention to the note on the motion that would amend the Judges Act which is before the House. It starts off by saying: "Notwithstanding section 55, Madam Justice Louise Arbour may apply for a leave of absence". That is the point, Mr. Speaker.

Point Of Order

10:15 a.m.

The Speaker

I thank the hon. member for St. Albert for bringing this specific point of order to the House. I listened with interest to what the parliamentary secretary had to say, both being put in juxtaposition.

We have here two amendments by the Senate for which concurrence of the House is sought. What the member is asking me to do is to rule on the procedural acceptability of changes made by the

Senate. My view is that your Speaker cannot stand as a procedural judge on what is done by the Senate. What they do over there, they do over there.

I would refer members to a ruling made April 26, 1990, at page 10723 of the Commons Debates , where Mr. Speaker Fraser notes:

-the Speaker of the House of Commons cannot unilaterally rule out of order amendments from the other place. I can comment, as I am doing, but the House as a whole must ultimately make the decision to accept or reject amendments from the Senate, whether they be in order according to our rules or not.

It comes down to a decision of the House.

I am going to reach back just a little further to Erskine May, 20th edition, Parliamentary Practice. I am quoting from page 582. Subsection (2) states:

No objection can be taken to a Lords Amendment-

-which means a Senate amendment for our purposes-

-on the ground of order.

These amendments are sent to us from the Senate. Your Speaker cannot rule procedurally on what the Senate does. That is a matter for the House to decide. The House should rule on these amendments.

I thank both hon. members for their interventions and for bringing this to my attention.

Government Response To PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

Fundy Royal New Brunswick


Paul Zed LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36(8), I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's response to three petitions.

Artists And Producers Professional Relations TribunalRoutine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

Saint-Léonard Québec


Alfonso Gagliano LiberalMinister of Labour and Deputy Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 32(2) and in accordance with section 61 of the Status of the Artist Act, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, copies of the second annual report for the year 1995-96 of the Canadian Artists and Producers Professional Relations Tribunal.

Pursuant to Standing Order 32(5), this report is deemed referred to the Standing Committee on Human Resources Development.

Committees Of The HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.


Roger Simmons Liberal Burin—St. George's, NL

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the third report of the Standing Committee on Health.

Pursuant to Standing Order 108(2), your committee has agreed to adopt the report on Bill C-202, an act respecting a National Organ Donor Day in Canada without amendment.

Committees Of The HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

Fundy Royal New Brunswick


Paul Zed LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present the 45th report on the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs regarding its order of reference from the House of October 22, 1996 in relation to Bill C-63, an act to amend the Canada Elections Act and the Referendum Act. The committee reports the bill with amendments.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.


Dale Johnston Reform Wetaskiwin, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have petition, duly authorized, from 100 constituents in the Calgary area. In part it says that the undersigned believe that the application of a 7 per cent GST to reading material is unfair and wrong.

Among other things they ask Parliament to zero rate reading materials under the proposed harmonization sales tax, and ask the Prime Minister to carry out his party's repeated and unequivocal promise to remove the federal sales tax from books, magazines and newspapers.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.


Réjean Lefebvre Bloc Champlain, QC

Mr. Speaker, I welcome this opportunity to present a petition from the riding of Champlain, consisting of 9,000 signatures covering 450 pages. This petition seeks the abolition of the Senate.

The text of the petition reads as follows: "The undersigned residents of Canada call upon the House to note the following: whereas the Senate consists of non-elected individuals who are not accountable for their actions; the Senate has an annual operating budget of $43 million; the Senate refuses to account for its votes to the committees of the House of Commons; the Senate does not fulfil its mandate for regional representation; the Senate duplicates the work done by members in the House of Commons; and considering the need for modern parliamentarian institutions and the motion to abolish the Senate now being debated in the House of

Commons; therefore your petitioners call upon Parliament to take steps to abolish the Senate".

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.

Fundy Royal New Brunswick


Paul Zed LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Shall all questions stand?

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.

Some hon. members


On the Order:

November 19-The Minister of Labour-Second reading and reference to the Standing Committee on Human Resources Development of Bill C-66, an act to amend the Canada Labour Code (Part I) and the Corporations and Labour Unions Returns Act and to make consequential amendments to other acts.

Canada Labour CodeGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

Saint-Léonard Québec


Alfonso Gagliano LiberalMinister of Labour and Deputy Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I move:

That Bill C-66, an act to amend the Canada Labour Code (Part I) and the Corporations and Labour Unions Returns Act and to make consequential amendments to other acts, be referred forthwith to the Standing Committee on Human Resources Development.

We are referring Bill C-66 to the Standing Committee on Human Resources Development so that it can review the bill and make recommendations.

Bill C-66 amends part I of the Canada Labour Code and the Corporations and Labour Unions Returns Act. The Canada Labour Code has not undergone-

Canada Labour CodeGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.


Dale Johnston Reform Wetaskiwin, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. There seems to be no English translation coming through.

Canada Labour CodeGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I ask the hon. Minister of Labour if he could wait for a minute so that we can make sure the

Canada Labour CodeGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.


Alfonso Gagliano Liberal Saint-Léonard, QC

Mr. Speaker, I was saying that the Canada Labour Code has not undergone a major overhaul in more than 25 years. It had to be updated with the future in mind. This is a commitment, my colleagues will recall, we made in the last speech from the throne.

My primary objective is to ensure an orderly approach is taken to industrial relations. I sincerely believe that clear rules striking a balance between the rights and responsibilities of all concerned are essential to the effectiveness of our collective bargaining process.

I also believe that the reform proposed by our government specifically meets this balance requirement. This has earned it substantial support from the parties covered by the Canada Labour Code.

The amendments to part I of the Canada Labour Code are important, timely and essential but not radical. They will not turn our system on its head but will encourage co-operative labour-management relationships as well as constructive collective bargaining.

We want to develop a positive legislative framework. The bill creates a fair and equitable set of rules for a collective bargaining process. It will allow the parties to frame their own agreements and have the flexibility to find appropriate solutions to the competitive pressures of our changing environment.

Our reform package reflects a broad consensus among stakeholders and the recommendation of the independent task group chaired by Andrew Sims. These recommendations have been published in the report "Seeking Balance".

We want to improve the administration of the code. This is why we are replacing the current board by the Canada Industrial Relations Board which, with its extended responsibilities, will be more effective and also more representative.

We have tightened up the negotiation process to allow a faster and smoother resolution of disputes, thanks to the following: a four month notice to bargain before the expiry of a collective agreement; a single one stage conciliation procedure; a secret vote within 60 days of a work stoppage; and a 72 hour advance notice before a strike or a lockout.

We want to promote better communication between employees, employers and the union. We also recognize the right of employers to express their views directly to the employees, provided they do not resort to unfair practices. As for the union, it will be allowed to get from the board the list of employees working off site and to contact them, as long as their privacy and their safety are maintained.

Traditionally, union and management groups were never able to reach a consensus on the issue of replacement workers. The government had to make a decision. After an in-depth analysis, it opted for a moderate and reasonable approach which, once again,

strikes a balance between the rights and the responsibilities of all those involved.

The equation is based on the premise that those involved will act in good faith. Under normal circumstances, the employer will be allowed to use replacement workers during a legal work stoppage. However, if it is established that such a practice is designed to undermine the representational capacity of a union, rather than to meet the legitimate objectives of a negotiation process, it will be deemed unfair.

We are giving unions the right to refer any contentious case directly to the Canadian Industrial Relations Board, which will have the authority to prohibit the use of replacement wokers during a conflict.

Our reform also provides that replacement workers must not be members of the bargaining unit. Therefore, they cannot take part in any vote, including a vote to return to work. At the end of a work stoppage, unions members will have the right to go back to their old job, before any other employee. They will also be still entitled to some benefits during the work stoppage, provided they keep paying related premiums. Moreover, any dismissal or disciplinary action could be subject to an arbitration process.

During any work stoppage we have to ensure that the measures necessary to protect public health and safety are maintained. No specific activities will be designated in the code. I believe that the parties should have the opportunity to negotiate an agreement. If they are unable to agree, the board will have the power to make that determination.

An important amendment ensures that the bargaining rights and the collective agreement will be carried over when an undertaking moves from provincial to federal jurisdiction. This is particularly important in these times when changes in ownership can occur frequently. It will prevent unnecessary disruption in labour-management relations and deter those who would use jurisdiction hopping to avoid bargaining obligations.

The next item deals with successive contracts for service in the airport industry. When a contract for services such as aircraft refuelling or security screening is transferred as a result of retendering, the new contractor will have to pay equivalent remuneration to employees. In the past the end of each contract has resulted in the loss of remuneration and employment for a group of workers mainly composed of women and immigrants. I feel it is our utmost responsibility to give them some protection against a competition process that would otherwise be based on who can pay the lowest wages.

This amendment will create a level playing field for contractors whose employees are unionized and reduce turnover rates, an important element to help maintain our airports at the highest security level possible.

In the new code grain handlers and their employers will retain the right to strike and lockout. In the event of a work stoppage involving other parties in port related activities, including longshoremen, service affecting grain shipment must be maintained.

The shipment of grain is a multimillion dollar industry. We export to over 70 countries and the livelihood of over 130,000 farmers depends on our reputation as a reliable supplier and exporter.

When a work stoppage involving employees in longshoring or other port operations impact on grain exports, special labour legislation has become the normal reaction. This has effectively removed the incentive for the parties to resolve their own disputes.

Taking grain shipping out of the equation will allow the parties to address their differences in a less destructive manner, accept the responsibility for their own actions and forego involving Parliament in the resolution of their disagreements. We are confident that this measure will address the vast majority of disruption to grain exports at Canadian ports.

In 1999 we will review its effectiveness and if necessary we will look at the stronger measures like those recommended in the west coast ports industry inquiry in order to deal with this important problem for the whole country.

Finally, let me make it crystal clear that the amendments to the Corporations and Labour Unions Returns Act, as we call it CALURA, do not in any way diminish the accountability process of the unions. On the contrary, Statistics Canada has found a better, more efficient and cheaper way to collect the data. It will be included in the labour force survey Stats Canada receives every month from the union membership.

This simple operation will save Statistics Canada $300,000 a year and give us regular, reliable data. This is, therefore, a noticeable improvement to the old procedure and I am very happy to present it in Bill C-66.

In conclusion, I would like to share with my colleagues a very wise remark made in the Sims report. The report maintained that the Canada Labour Code must strike a balance between conflicting values and interests; between the interests of the employees and those of the employers; between social and economic priorities; between rights and responsibilities; between individual and majority rights; between the public interest and free collective bargaining.

This is exactly what we tried to do with the review of the Canada Labour Code. Therefore, I would urge my colleagues to support this motion. Bill C-66 will then be immediately referred to the standing committee. All those interested will be able to express

their viewpoints to committee members, who will then report on the suggestions that were made.

This is how all my colleagues can help turn the Canada Labour Code into a modern and useful tool to help both management and unions to settle their labour disputes.

Canada Labour CodeGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.


Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC

Mr. Speaker, the least we can say this morning, and the Minister will agree, is that a review of the Canada Labour Code is long overdue. Several times we stood in this House to ask questions on various provisions of the code and each time the Minister would refer to the review he tabled three weeks ago, parts of which, I must say, are certainly evidence of his good will.

I am well aware that the Minister is a courteous man, but I have a feeling that he did not follow his reform ideas through to their logical conclusion and that he was a little bit inhibited in some of his actions. I certainly hope to have the opportunity in committee to urge the Minister to go further, to surpass himself, and to see to it that the bill be further improved upon, since, as you well know, this is the role of the opposition and a full time job.

This being said, there are positive elements in there. Obviously, when the Minister suggests measures to accelerate the hearing of the parties, we cannot but agree. When the Minister proposes that a one person court may be convened so as to speed up the work of the Canada Labour Relations Board, we are all for it. When the Minister wants to change the name of the Canada Labour Relations Board, which lived last winter a crisis that almost destroyed it, we are in favour of that.

What the minister will have to specify is this: in the bill that will be considered by the human resources development committee, to make the Canada Industrial Relations Board, a quasi-judicial tribunal that is extremely important for the balance he is seeking to strike, does he intend to make it a truly representational body as he was asked to do on many occasions? Will he accept that members of this board be appointed from lists that will be submitted, as is done for other governmental organizations? To ensure that the Canada Industrial Relations Board decisions are not never questioned, the board must become a representational body.

Too often, in the past, appointments were made that did not reflect the kind of talent, expertise and knowledge that is to be expected from people who sit on this quasi-judicial tribunal.

The minister knows perfectly well this bill contains a provision that is rather vague. It says that the minister will consult. Of course, the notion of consultation is not very precise. It is true that consultation is important when making this kind of appointments, but I think balance would be much better served if the minister could use lists that would be submitted by both management and union representatives to fill vacancies on the board.

You will also understand that this reform, and the opposition's position, and the common understanding that will guide us over the coming weeks, because we on this side of the House are very aware that this is the beginning of a relatively lengthy process, since the Canada Labour Code is an extremely important tool in union democracy, that the whole issue of replacement workers will be the focus of our concerns.

I must say that it is undoubtedly this aspect of the bill that is the most disappointing. It is undoubtedly this aspect of the bill that goes most against the grain for the minister, where he did not achieve what he would have liked. The reform the minister is proposing has no central component, only peripheral details.

It is not clear where this came from. Recognizing the right to use replacement workers only in cases where the union's representational capacity is undermined is not something that flows from the Sims report. First of all, there is no case law to support it. There is no partner. I challenge the minister to rise in his place and tell us who asked for such a formula when the Sims task force was conducting its review. Who on the employer side or the union side is calling for such a convoluted formula, the concrete results and ramifications of which are unknown?

The mere fact that negotiations are continuing and the parties sitting down at the same table is evidence that a union's representational capacity will not be undermined and that the employer is not entitled to use replacement workers.

I cannot go along with the minister's statement that he cannot act without a consensus. I think this indicates a lack of knowledge of the context giving rise to the legislation passed by the National Assembly in 1977. If a consensus is required it is clear that, in such an instance, we are condemned to the status quo, and I think both the legislator and members of Parliament could be faulted for lack of courage in their failure to permit this very healthy exercise in democracy to take place in a well defined context. We agree that it must not take place in any old way, but, rather, that the context in which replacement workers are used must be well defined.

I think we have to give in to what has been requested by the FTQ, the CSN and the Canadian Labour Congress and include it very plainly among the unfair labour practices. At the moment, seven unfair practices are set out and defined in the Canada Labour Code.

What is an unfair practice? It is the allegation that an employer, a union or an individual has taken part in an activity prohibited by the Canada Labour Code. Why was it not named clearly and

unambiguously? It would then have been a lot easier for the Canada Labour Relations Board to conduct the arbitrations required.

Everyone agrees that a strike is the ultimate weapon. It is acknowledged that there must be intermediate stages. However, in cases where it is unavoidable-and it is acknowledged to be an element of union democracy-I think it should have been clearly included among unfair practices along with section 24; section 50, which is about bargaining in bad faith; section 94, which deals with interference in union business; section 37, which has to do with a union's duty of fair representation; and section 95, which concerns prohibitions relating to trade unions.

I repeat, this is the thrust of the reform. You are well aware that the official opposition will not let this demand drop. We will encourage the minister to go right to the limit of his reformer tendencies, because I know for a fact that the minister is not a conservative.

There was also a strong demand by the unions regarding technological change. On several occasions, the minister rose in this House and mentioned how much the labour market was changing, and how traditional practices were fast disappearing.

One of the major demands was the right to strike, to reopen a collective agreement whenever significant technological changes occur between the signing of a collective agreement and its renegotiation. I believe we must keep this in mind. The committee will have to do some soul-searching regarding this particular demand.

I believe the minister should have implemented the Sims report as a whole and taken note of a demand, a very important recommendation regarding his powers. This very studious minister could not have forgotten the existence of a very clear recommendation to abolish eight different powers, or eight sections of the act giving the minister powers that appear somewhat archaic in light of current practices and realities.

Cases in point are section 57 regarding the authority to appoint arbitrators and an arbitration board; section 59 regarding the minister's right to receive copies of arbitration decisions; and section 71 regarding the right to receive notices of dispute. There are about eight sections like that. I believe that members of the Sims task force were all agreed that these powers were somewhat outdated.

You will also understand how disappointed the opposition is with regard to the RCMP. We even tabled a motion-which I moved-inviting the minister to put an end to the discrimination against RCMP employees. The RCMP is the only police force in Canada which is not allowed to negotiate working conditions through collective bargaining.

I believe the Sims report was very clear in this regard. The minister must be aware of it. It was recognized that it was not desirable to grant the right to strike. In fact, no one within the RCMP is asking for this right. What they are asking for is the right to collective bargaining with compulsory arbitration, which many municipal police forces currently enjoy.

Another serious omission, which we will have a chance to address in committee, concerns a very important demand made by PSAC, the Public Service Alliance of Canada, an organization the minister has held in high esteem so far. PSAC asked to be excluded from the application of the Public Service Staff Relations Act and be subject to the Canada Labour Code instead.

Why did the Public Service Alliance of Canada and its members democratically express such a demand? Because under the Public Service Staff Relations Act they cannot negotiate provisions as important as those governing job security in legislation other than the staff relations act. The same goes for protection against technological changes, job classification, appointments, promotions, and transfers.

To conclude, while recognizing that the minister is acting in good faith, this proverbial good faith of his, we must take his reform proposal one step further and include a number of substantial changes requested by unions among others. I am convinced that, by the time we are through with our committee work, the minister will heed the official opposition's demands.

Canada Labour CodeGovernment Orders

10:50 a.m.


Dale Johnston Reform Wetaskiwin, AB

Mr. Speaker, it has been more than 20 years since the Canada Labour Code was amended. Over that period, the Canadian labour force changed dramatically thanks to the rapid growth of technology.

For the most part, the code has served us well. Only a few changes are needed to improve the operations of the Canada Labour Relations Board and to ensure that strikes or lockouts do not negatively impact on the health, safety and economic well-being of Canadians.

It has been evident from the legislation presented by this government that there is a tendency to go overboard, gun registration being a case in point.

In the case of Bill C-66, the government is intruding on the rights of workers, employers and the Canadian public far more than is necessary. In its attempt to be all things to all people, this government has foisted a flawed bill on the Minister of Labour.

Even though the Canada Labour Code governs the activities of only 700,000 workers, federally regulated industries are often the lifeline for Canadian manufacturers, producers and processors. They are primarily service oriented, involved in free movement of goods, services, capital and people across Canada. Because of the unique nature of the federal system, alternative sources are not often available.

The goal of any legislation and regulation should be to create an environment which encourages economic growth.

The government should seize the opportunity to fulfil one of its red book promises, that being the one called jobs, jobs, jobs, by making sure that the Canada Labour Code allows businesses and their employees to operate on a level playing field.

We know that taxes kill jobs. The government infrastructure programs and other make work projects do not create permanent jobs. Vague labour legislation and regulations that are made on a case by case basis will not create jobs either.

With the unemployment rate at 10 per cent, 1.4 million people unemployed and more than 1 in 4 Canadians worried about losing their jobs, one would think the government would do its utmost to ensure a stable environment for conducting business.

Last week the Minister for International Trade released a study showing that after-tax costs of setting up a business in Canada average 6.7 per cent less than in the United States. This is good news for Canadians and could be a catalyst for job creation for businesses looking for a place to expand and invest.

The government should be helping by offering a secure and dependable infrastructure that would allow them to get their products to market and receive their raw materials unimpeded. Instead, Bill C-66 would only muddy the waters and become more of a deterrent than a booster of economic growth and job creation.

It is in the interest of all Canadians that we have reliable access to essential services, to keep the employment within our borders and to establish and maintain a reputation worldwide as reliable exporters of goods.

Stable labour relations will promote investment and reinvestment. Bill C-66 does not clarify what constitutes an essential service, nor does it spell out what constitutes undermining a union when replacement workers are used in a strike or a lockout. This is not fair to workers, employers or third parties who often have the most to lose in labour disputes that occur in federally regulated industries.

Scores of witnesses appearing before the industrial inquiry commission on industrial relations at west coast ports testified about the repercussions experienced by farmers and producers when strikes or lockouts prevent their crops and products from reaching markets.

Those witnesses convinced the members of the commission who in turn proposed a number of workable recommendations to solve the problem. Unfortunately the drafters of this legislation did not follow the commission's advice and came up with what at best could only be called a watered down or partial solution.

This half measure would ensure that grain, once it reaches port, would be loaded on ships. There is no provision, however, to ensure that grain reaches the port if there is a labour dispute elsewhere in the system. If that happens Parliament will be called upon to legislate everybody back to work.

Over the last 20 years Parliament legislated an end to 19 strikes in the transportation and grain handling sector. It is in the interest of labour and management producers and processors to resolve disputes without parliamentary intervention.

In the face of the growing importance of the global economy there is a need for continuous reliable shipping through Canada's ports and transportation sectors. The costly interruption of government business is not required. While there is a need for regulation by various levels of government it is not practical to put emergency measures in place each time labour and management are unable to reach a satisfactory agreement. Resolving the differences of these two groups can be achieved without interrupting the regular flow of government proceedings.

A permanent and fair resolution process must be put in place, removed from the whims of government. We need permanent legislation that would provide both sides with predictable rules and a timetable by which to negotiate. Canada has a world class transportation system and communications infrastructure that should not be vulnerable to closure.

A disruption in the day to day operation of vital transportation sectors inhibits the national economy from functioning. The potential impact of even a short work stoppage in many federal operations is catastrophic to Canadian business and to the Canadian economy as a whole. A strike in either the rail or truck sector cripples the automotive industry which must move finished products, raw materials and parts throughout North America on a daily basis.

Westerners rely heavily on the railways. Each year approximately 80 million tonnes of products, most of which are bulk commodities such as grain, coal, sulphur and potash, leave the prairies by rail on their way to consumers in domestic and international markets. Prairie shippers provide CN and CP rail with 50 per cent of their originating tonnage and contribute almost the same portion in revenues.

While it is impossible to put a price on the damage done to our reputation as a reliable exporter, the direct costs from the 1994 west coast ports dispute are said to have amounted to over $125 million. The estimated indirect costs, loss to future business and so forth, were in excess of $250 million and threatened $500 million in grain sales.

The risk to Canadian jobs must be minimized. Not only will a significant number of jobs be lost in the export sector if these disputes cannot be resolved, but jobs and the ports will be at severe risk when alternative means to ship goods are utilized. The use of U.S. ports could result in a loss of cargo and jobs in Canadian ports.

I recommended final offer selection arbitration many times in this House and to the Sims task force and the west coast ports inquiry commission. Final offer arbitration is a tool to effectively and permanently resolve labour issues that fall under federal jurisdiction. It does not favour one side or another and here is how it works.

If and only if the union and employers cannot make an agreement by the conclusion of the previous contract, the union and employers would provide the minister with the name of a person they jointly recommend as arbitrator. The union and employer would be required to submit to the arbitrator a list of the matters agreed upon and a list of the matters still under dispute. For disputed issues each party would be required to submit a final offer for selection. The arbitrator then selects either the final offer submitted by the union or the final offer submitted by the employer; all of one or all of the other. The arbitrator's decision would be binding on both parties.

The measures contained in Bill C-66 will not, however, achieve the balance that the minister seeks. It will not promote harmonious relations between the two, nor will it ensure the uninterrupted flow of commodities to market.

If Canada is to be a major player in the global marketplace, it is incumbent upon us as legislators not to interfere but to provide logical, sound legislation under which workers and management can operate.

Canada Labour CodeGovernment Orders

11 a.m.


Maurizio Bevilacqua Liberal York North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise before the House today to address Bill C-66 which will amend part I of the Canada Labour Code, the Corporations and Labour Unions Returns Act. I am pleased because this piece of legislation is a symbol of the possibilities which exist when government, labour and business work together in an atmosphere of trust and co-operation.

The bill will modernize the industrial relations component of the Canada Labour Code, thereby improving the ability of labour and management to adjust and thrive in an increasingly global economy.

This is especially true when we consider the fact that the proposed amendments will affect about 700,000 Canadians in very important pivotal industries, such as banking, telecommunications, broadcasting, rail and road transportation, airports and airlines, and others. These industries are part of the backbone of our national economy. In many cases they are also where we will find jobs for the future.

It is so rare to see management and unions sharing the same opinion that I thought it important to mention the fact here.

It is true that a tremendous amount of work has been invested in producing this piece of legislation. Bill C-66 is the product of an extensive consultation process. These consultations included a task force of labour relations experts, a working group of management and labour organizations, and a series of meetings held by the Minister of Labour with representatives of labour, management and other interested parties.

The task force was chaired by Andrew Sims, an Edmonton labour lawyer specializing in arbitration and dispute resolution. He was admirably supported by two experienced colleagues, Toronto based labour arbitrator, mediator and fact finder Paula Knopf, and Quebec labour arbitrator and professor at Laval University, Rodrigue Blouin.

The task force received numerous written submissions and met with labour and management delegations and with members of the academic and legal communities at various locations across the country. It also invited labour and management organizations whose members are subject to the Canada Labour Code to set up a working group to discuss and endeavour to reach a consensus on issues.

When the task force submitted its report entitled: "Seeking a Balance", it reflected the consensus reached by the labour-management working group in a number of important areas. In addition to its own findings and those of the working group, the Sims task force also took into account the recommendations made by the West Coast Ports Industrial Inquiry Commission which had issued its report in December 1995.

It is quite an accomplishment that both labour and management have expressed support for the overall balance of the recommendations of the task force. The consensus reached is an illustration of what can be accomplished when we work together in a spirit of good faith and mutual respect.

On several key issues Bill C-66 reflects the consensus reached by labour and management. With these amendments the government is acting as a proactive catalyst for change. It is proposing strategies which will modernize the code, encouraging parties to settle their differences in a less adversarial fashion.

The amendments include the establishment of a new representational Canada industrial relations board composed of a neutral chairperson and vice-chairpersons, and equal numbers of members representing employers and employees. This board will replace the current non-representational Canada Labour Relations Board.

The new board will be given greater flexibility to deal quickly with routine or urgent matters. The board's powers will be clarified or extended to ensure that complex industrial relations issues, such as those arising from the review of bargaining units or sales of businesses, can be fully addressed, and to provide appropriate remedies in the case of unfair labour practices, such as failure to bargain in good faith.

There is the replacement of the current two-stage conciliation process by a single stage with a choice of procedures, to take no more than 60 days.

The right to strike or lockout will be subject to the holding of a secret ballot vote within the previous 60 days and the giving of a 72-hour advance notice.

Parties involved in a work stoppage will be required to maintain services necessary to protect public health and safety. Services affecting grain shipments will be continued in the event of legal work stoppages by any third parties in the ports.

There will be no general prohibition on the use of replacement workers. However if they are used for the purposes of undermining a union's representative capacity, the board may declare their use as an unfair labour practice and order the employer to stop using them for the duration of the dispute.

Employees will be entitled to maintain insurance and benefits programs during work stoppages.

The amendments will also confirm the rights of employees in the bargaining unit who were on strike or locked out to resume employment following the end of a work stoppage in preference to any persons hired to replace them.

As chair of the parliamentary Standing Committee on Human Resources Development, I look forward to a very interesting debate and hearing further opinions from all sides of the House. We will find ways to perhaps improve this piece of legislation.

Canada Labour CodeGovernment Orders

11:05 a.m.


Francine Lalonde Bloc Mercier, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased this morning to speak to Bill C-66, particularly since my colleagues, as members of the opposition, and I, as official critic during the rail strike, may be partially responsible for its existence.

I remember that, while the strike spread throughout Canada, and we in the Bloc Quebecois spoke for the right to strike as set out in the Canada Labour Code, many Canadians told us that we were putting Canada at risk and I kept repeating: "If the Canadian economy cannot afford the Canadian Labour Code, then change it. Until then, we defend those who use the Candadian Labour Code."

So I understand that the government wished to amend the Canada Labour Code so that it facilitates dispute resolution in industries which are vital for the Canadian economy.

We cannot disagree with its intent. However, as my colleague, who now acts as critic and who spoke so eloquently, made clear, and as we will keep repeating and will no doubt hear very often during committee hearings, this intent cannot be reinforced by just any provision. As far as labour relations are concerned, nothing can be as insidious for the legislator as thinking that he does not have to strike a balance. The legislator must be aware that, in real life, if strong unions have developed, it is because there were strong, prosperous companies.

But we can say that, in Quebec and in Canada, unions have become increasingly responsible, that they have decided to take part in the economic development of their industries, and that they understand that hostile and antagonistic labour relations can be harmful. But, at the same time, they know that there can be no peace if they are toothless. Historically, and not only in Canada, when labour relations do not guarantee this balance, there is no peace, which is our goal.

The absence of conflict within a company does not mean that peace prevails. As a former labour relations teacher, I can tell you that there is nothing worse for a business than to have employees who are dissatisfied, who are frustrated, who feel the business is not well managed, and who do not have a say in its operations. Nothing is more harmful, because the productivity that everyone talks about will not exist.

Productivity, that is the one coming from workers and not investments, is possible when workers feel that the business is well managed, that what is asked of them is feasible, and that they are given the means to do the job. However, in order to achieve that, workers must be allowed to speak up.

Under these conditions, unions that are increasingly responsible, that take it upon themselves to hold sometimes vigourous debates with their members, that support the development of a business and of its management, that become key players in the process, and I could name of few, including in the port industry, these unions expect the other side to recognize them as a voice for the workers who fully take part in the development of a business. Unions expect to be recognized as such, including in the legal periods agreed upon for the renewal of collective agreements.

Thus, when we want to introduce, as is being done, principles of essential services, with which nobody can really disagree, but when on the other hand we do not guarantee unions that workers who are not unit members, the replacement workers, or "scabs" as they are commonly called, will not be prohibited, unions do not feel they are fully recognized. If follows therefore that the trust placed in them during the operation of the collective agreement would no

longer apply when the renewal period is legally recognized, at a time when a power struggle is actually going on. It is an economic power struggle, and this is the real factor that will bring about results on the workers' side, but also on the employer's side.

On the thorny issue of rail transportation, we have often seen employers resort to lockouts, whereas workers were willing to work night and day to ensure essential unloadings. They know they cannot do otherwise. However, it is important to know, when such provisions exist, that employers would not be allowed to sabotage the good management tool a responsible union becomes once a collective agreement is signed.

Let me tell you this: If employers think that, after having used replacement workers in time of strike, they can count on the co-operation of unions-not co-operation in the sense of their refusal to stand up for their members' interests, but in the sense of a refusal to get involved in the development of the business-they are mistaken.

I think the minister should understand that, in this regard, he cannot expect that employers would agree with anti-scab legislation. That would be asking them to deprive themselves of a powerful tool. Therefore, the minister must have the courage to give people in the workplace this tool, which is essential if a balance is to be struck.

Let me to say that when the Parti Quebecois government passed its anti-scab bill in 1977, initially, there was a wave of protest. I can tell you that employers were praying for a change of government in 1985, when the Liberal government came to power. They wanted Mr. Bourassa to cancel the anti-scab legislation.

But what did Mr. Bourassa tell them? This quote comes from a publication called Les Affaires . Mr. Bourassa told them this: ``Look, now that social peace has been achieved, why would you want to upset it, and disrupt it?'' And Mr. Bourassa kept the anti-scab bill because it provided rules that allowed and even, to some extent, compelled the unions to be the responsible instruments we need.

We need workers who have authorized and democratic representatives to speak on their behalf and wield some power, and we need well managed businesses, where employers have the managing powers they need to expand and be profitable. There is no doubt about that.

I know that our time is limited but I wanted to stress this point, which, in my opinion, is a major one. This point is not only precise or limited. No. In spite of real the improvements this bill will make to the code, if this clause on legal replacement workers is maintained, I think the spirit of the code will not be what the minister is seeking.

As was so eloquently said by our critic, we will work very hard to help the minister make the changes that are desirable.