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House of Commons Hansard #109 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was c-42.

Topics

Canadian AirlinesOral Question Period

2:15 p.m.

Hamilton West Ontario

Liberal

Stan Keyes LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, this gives me the opportunity to announce that the government has remained consistent with its message that there will be no bailout of Canadian Airlines. The government has come forward with a tax rebate program on fuel for the aviation industry. It will allow carriers which have significant losses over a number of years to claim rebates against aviation fuel taxes.

Canadian AirlinesOral Question Period

2:15 p.m.

Roberval Québec

Bloc

Michel Gauthier BlocLeader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, the process is a rather odd one. Usually, the Minister of Finance announces reductions or increases in taxes. Things seem, shall I say, a bit in disarray in the government. It was much the same thing in the case of cigarettes and the Minister of Health, until the Minister of Finance set him straight. Perhaps he will have to set his colleague in transport straight. I nevertheless have a question for the Minister of Finance.

Given how easy it is for a company to post a deficit using certain accounting practices, would the Minister of Finance not agree that a program like this, intended solely for companies that show an operating deficit, might encourage all Canadian airlines to show a deficit through the use of certain accounting tricks in order to benefit from a substantial reduction in fuel tax too? Does this measure make any sense?

Canadian AirlinesOral Question Period

2:15 p.m.

Hamilton West Ontario

Liberal

Stan Keyes LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, I will first address the subject of procedure that the hon. member raised. When the Minister of Transport is busy doing his job across the country, and in this case in British Columbia facilitating discussions on all sides in the Canadian Airlines dilemma, then it falls to the duty of the parliamentary secretary to answer the questions in the House of Commons and I have the privilege to do that.

On the issue of substance in the hon. member's question, it is important to understand that there are still some details to be worked out on the aviation fuel tax rebate. Quite frankly that rebate will only apply if certain conditions are met.

As we have stressed day after day for the last month, there will be no bailout from the federal government for Canadian Airlines. The conditions are that the British Columbia government and the Alberta government come on board. Just yesterday the Minister of Transport congratulated Premier Ralph Klein for coming on board on that restructuring plan. Of course the Canadian Airlines family, that is the company and the union membership have to come on board. That entails all six unions. Finally, American Airlines and the creditors to the airline also have to be part of the restructuring package.

Canadian AirlinesOral Question Period

2:15 p.m.

Roberval Québec

Bloc

Michel Gauthier BlocLeader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, it is absolutely incredible that companies showing a deficit will enjoy a partial reduction in taxes. Is this not encouraging companies to show a year end deficit, to show they are in the red, so they can enjoy the government's generosity?

Would the Minister of Finance not agree that this makes no sense and that the solution for the airlines has to be much more thought out, much more credible-one that could resolve the problem and not create perhaps another ten more?

Canadian AirlinesOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Hamilton West Ontario

Liberal

Stan Keyes LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, this government believes that our two national airlines are of major national significance and importance. Quite frankly, they are equal.

Maybe I could put it into a better perspective for the leader of the Bloc. Most of us in the House have children. I have two daughters and I consider both of them to be equal, but they have individual and different needs.

In this situation, I find the questions from the opposition member rather hypocritical because quite frankly they have distinct needs.

Canadian AirlinesOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

The Speaker

Colleagues, I would ask you to please stay away from terms like hypocritical. They sort of stir up our emotions in here, and we do not need that.

Canadian AirlinesOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Bloc Kamouraska—Rivière-Du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Deputy Prime Minister.

Yesterday, we learned that the premier of British Columbia was in Dallas for a meeting with American Airlines officials to explore the possibility of American buying a larger share of Canadian Airlines International.

Did the BC premier receive the assurance of the federal government that increasing the foreign ownership of Canadian would not be a problem?

Canadian AirlinesOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Hamilton West Ontario

Liberal

Stan Keyes LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, to the best of my knowledge we are unaware of the discussion that took place between the Premier Clark and the president of American Airlines. No foreign investment discussion has been initiated or requested by Canadian Airlines to the Minister of Transport.

Canadian AirlinesOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Bloc Kamouraska—Rivière-Du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, how can the Minister of Industry regard a merger between Air Canada and Canadian Airlines as an insult to western Canada when his own government does not see any problem with American Airlines taking over Canadian Airlines?

Canadian AirlinesOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Hamilton West Ontario

Liberal

Stan Keyes LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, the government refuses to get into a dialogue that the hon. member wants to draw us into because we believe that Canadian is going to become a viable, strong airline in this country.

Canadian AirlinesOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Reform

Preston Manning Reform Calgary Southwest, AB

Mr. Speaker, we are pleased to see that the federal government has indirectly lowered the aviation fuel tax for Canadian Airlines. We disagree with the way that it has been done, but we do think it is a step in the right direction. And if it is done, it should save Canadian about $20 million a year in the short term.

The other stumbling block, as members know, to the restructuring of Canadian Airlines is that the leadership of the CAW and CUPE will not let their members vote on the company's restructuring proposal.

Every Canadian employee should have the basic democratic right to vote on their own future and the futures of their families.

My question is to the parliamentary secretary. Does the government agree that Canadian's employees, in particular the members

of the CAW and CUPE, should be permitted to vote directly on the company's restructuring proposal?

Canadian AirlinesOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Hamilton West Ontario

Liberal

Stan Keyes LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, yes we do.

Canadian AirlinesOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Reform

Preston Manning Reform Calgary Southwest, AB

Mr. Speaker, we are glad to hear that. Flight attendants and ticketing agents at Canadian are demanding a vote on the company's restructuring proposals but their own union bosses are refusing to let them exercise their democratic right.

Buzz Hargrove does not work at Canadian. He does not have a personal stake in whether the airline succeeds or fails and he does not appear to care. Canadian employees must have the final say on their own jobs and the future of their airline.

Since the parliamentary secretary said he agrees the employees have this right, what specific action is the government taking to ensure that Canadian's employees will be able to vote directly on the company's restructuring proposals?

Canadian AirlinesOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Hamilton West Ontario

Liberal

Stan Keyes LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, I guess the hon. leader of the third party was listening to the same interview as I was listening to this morning on "Newsworld". We probably heard the same thing, that some of the employees were talking about how they have been trying to contact their leadership at the Canadian auto workers.

First, the CUPE employees have been told apparently that they will be able to have their vote on December 7. They believe that is too late and they would like to get on with the opportunity of voting tomorrow if possible.

Mr. Hargrove's job is not on the line, according to the employee on "Newsworld" this morning, that he is ignoring the facts, he has not done the due diligence search on the books of Canadian that the pilots union and the largest union, the machinists union, have done. They say that the threat is real. Mr. Hargrove is doing what he is doing despite the fact that quite apparently his membership wants the opportunity to have that vote on this restructuring package.

Canadian AirlinesOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Reform

Preston Manning Reform Calgary Southwest, AB

Mr. Speaker, the question is not whether this position is the position of the employees. My question was what is the government going to do about it to ensure that their rights are exercised.

There is a section in the Canadian Labour Code, section 108.1, that authorizes the Minister of Labour to direct that a vote of the employees be held on a collective bargaining agreement offer by an employer if it is deemed to be in the public interest.

Surely it is in the public interest that Canadian Airlines employees be permitted to vote directly on a restructuring proposal, but that it does not appear to be covered by the code.

We and the employees of Canadian would appreciate a direct answer to this question. Would the government be willing to introduce forthwith an amendment authorizing the Minister of Labour to direct an employee vote on restructuring offers such as that being put forward by Canadian Airlines to its own employees?

Canadian AirlinesOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Saint-Léonard Québec

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, this is not regular collective bargaining. Therefore the section the member refers to in the Labour Code does not apply in this case.

This is a negotiation between the two parties. Therefore the Minister of Labour has no authority to intervene. It is up to management and the unions to decide and find the necessary procedure to have a vote on this matter.

However, if both parties would like me to intervene, on their request I would be glad to and I am ready to appoint a mediator so they can facilitate their negotiations.

Space AgencyOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Bloc

Nic Leblanc Bloc Longueuil, QC

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Deputy Prime Minister.

We have just learned that the space agency chairman, Mr. Evans, is claiming monthly rental fees of $1,300 for a luxurious apartment in Montreal. In addition, Mr. Evans has the use of an official car to travel between Saint-Hubert and Montreal on a regular basis.

Will the Deputy Prime Minister confirm that, while all employees of the space agency are required to live in Montreal, the agency chairman does not, although he is provided with a $1,300 a month apartment at taxpayers' expense?

Space AgencyOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Hull—Aylmer Québec

Liberal

Marcel Massé LiberalPresident of the Treasury Board and Minister responsible for Infrastructure

Mr. Speaker, it is true that relocated employees usually have the option of changing their place of residence. But the Treasury Board manual does provide for some exceptions on the basis of a number of objective factors that I would like to outline.

Under section 5.9.1 of the personnel management manual, there are cases in which employees are required to live outside their metropolitan or headquarters area for a number of months or years. The Deputy Minister must consider all aspects of the employee's situation, including the length of stay, family considerations, whether the employee rents or owns, to determine if it is practical,

more economical and less disruptive for the family to help the employee maintain a second residence or to authorize relocation.

In this case, relocation costs would have been much higher than the rental subsidy.

Space AgencyOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Bloc

Nic Leblanc Bloc Longueuil, QC

Mr. Speaker, why is it then that all other employees are required to live in Montreal, save one, a former advisor to the Minister of Industry, namely Mr. Evans, who receives special compensation? This is outrageous, especially since Mr. Evans earns between $117,000 and $142,000 a year.

Space AgencyOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Hull—Aylmer Québec

Liberal

Marcel Massé LiberalPresident of the Treasury Board and Minister responsible for Infrastructure

Mr. Speaker, as I just said, this is not a special situation. There is a Treasury Board regulation authorizing the Deputy Minister to make a choice and determine the employee's conditions of employment.

In this case, not only must the employee work in Ottawa two days a week, but his spouse works in Ottawa and they have young children. There is no doubt in my mind that the Treasury Board policy was properly interpreted and applied.

Canadian AirlinesOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Reform

Stephen Harper Reform Calgary West, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to follow up on the question from the leader of the Reform Party to the Minister of Labour which the Minister of Labour did not answer.

The Reform Party has offered to facilitate the government's passing amendments immediately and as quickly as possible to extend the provisions of the Canada Labour Code that allow a democratic vote of the workers of Canadian on the offer of the management on the basis of public interest.

There are provisions in the code right now that are too narrow for that but we would certainly be willing to extend them to these circumstances. Would the Minister of Labour be prepared to do that forthwith?

Canadian AirlinesOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Saint-Léonard Québec

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, right now there is a labour code that has been in the county for over 20 years. I would like to remind the member that we are in the process of amending the existing legislation which is before the committee. Therefore we are following the regular process.

Let me remind this House that what we are arguing about is not a collective bargaining system that we know and that we are trying to improve. Restructuring a company is a business transaction and both parties should find a way to reach an agreement without the government's having to intervene all of the time.

I am surprised that the Reform Party would ask such a question when not long ago the critic of labour for the Reform Party said that we should get rid of the Minister of Labour and any labour department. Now it is asking the Minister of Labour to intervene right away. Those members should make up their minds.

Canadian AirlinesOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Reform

Stephen Harper Reform Calgary West, AB

Mr. Speaker, what we are asking for is for the employees of Canadian Airlines themselves to be able to intervene in their own future rather than take the 100 per cent pay cut that some of their union leaders seem to want them to take.

Does the minister not realize that we have a public and pressing interest here? We do not have time for the games. The future of the company and jobs are at stake. We do not have time for a lengthy mediation. Will he introduce in this House legislation that will allow the workers to speak on their own economic future?

Canadian AirlinesOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Saint-Léonard Québec

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, in case the Reform members did not understand, I will repeat this is not a collective agreement negotiation. This is a restructuring business plan. I do not think it is the business of the government to interfere in the relationship between the membership of the unions and its leadership. Let the membership take care of its own leadership problems.

Employment InsuranceOral Question Period

November 28th, 1996 / 2:30 p.m.

Bloc

Francine Lalonde Bloc Mercier, QC

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Human Resources Development.

Monday, in the House, I asked the Minister to tell us when the new employment insurance regulations would be ready and available. He replied, and I quote: "I looked, among other things, at some interpretation documents concerning the act that will ensure everyone can properly inform beneficiaries in the coming weeks".

In light of the serious consequences that the new employment insurance provisions taking effect January 5 can have for unemployed workers, can the Minister of Human Resources Development tell us when the regulations will be ready, and whether they will include transitional measures?