House of Commons Hansard #23 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was labour.


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Some hon. members


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Some hon. members


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The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

All those in favour will please say yea.

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Some hon. members


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The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

All those opposed will please say nay.

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Some hon. members


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The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

In my opinion the yeas have it.

And more than five members having risen:

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The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

The recorded division on the motion stands deferred.

The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred divisions at the report stage of the bill.

Call in the members.

And the division bells having rung:

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The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

The recorded division on the question now before the House stands deferred until 6.30 p.m., Monday, April 15, at which time the bells to call in the members will be sounded for not more than 15 minutes.

The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill C-11, an act to establish the Department of Human Resources Development and to amend and repeal certain related acts, as reported (with amendment) from the committee.

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March 28th, 1996 / 11:40 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

There are 17 motions in amendment standing on the Notice Paper for the report stage of Bill C-11, an act to establish the Department of Human Resources Development and to amend and repeal certain related acts. The motions will be grouped for debate as follows.

Group No. 1, Motions Nos. 1, 2, 4 and 6.

Group No. 2, Motion No. 3.

Group No. 3, Motion No. 5.

Group No. 4, Motions Nos. 7, 8, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16 and 17.

Group No. 5, Motions Nos. 9 and 10.

The voting patterns for the motions within each group are available at the table. The Chair will remind the House of each pattern at the time of voting. I shall now propose Motions Nos. 1, 2, 4 and 6 to the House.

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11:40 a.m.


Daphne Jennings Reform Mission—Coquitlam, BC


Motion No. 1

That Bill C-11 be amended by deleting Clause 4.

Motion No. 2

That Bill C-11, in Clause 5, be amended by deleting lines 6 to 9, on page 3.

Motion No. 4

That Bill C-11, in Clause 21, be amended by replacing lines 17 to 21, on page 6, with the following:

"21. The Minister may authorize the Commission, any other body or member of a class of bodies, or a person, or member of a class of persons to exercise any power or perform any duty or function of the Minister."

Motion No. 6

That Bill C-11 be amended by deleting Clause 37.

Mr. Speaker, in speaking to my proposed amendments to Bill C-11, I will address them in their groupings and begin with Group No. 1. Reform's amendments, Motions Nos. 1, 2, 4 and 6, all address the new position of minister of labour and his or her department.

With respect to Reform's Motion No. 1, clause 4 of the bill allows the Prime Minister to appoint a minister of labour. We oppose this clause. The only reason we have a minister of labour is that the Prime Minister felt he needed to find a place in cabinet for the hon. member for Saint-Henri-Westmount.

The government found it unnecessary for the first two years of its mandate to have a minister of labour. In effect there is no need for this position. This clause allows the Prime Minister the pleasure of appointing or not appointing one. Quite simply, this new ministry is expensive and unnecessary. The responsibilities could be maintained within the human resources development department.

I am aware that there have been ministries of labour in the past. However, cabinets have been huge. Today Canadians want to see less government, not more.

Motion No. 2 refers to clause 5(3). Our amendment is to delete subclause (3). This subclause allows for a deputy minister of labour, an unnecessary position if there is no need for a minister of labour.

Moving to clause 21, which is Motion No. 4 of Group No. 1, the amendment would remove the minister of labour from the clause. There is no need for the minister of labour to be mentioned at all in the bill. There is certainly no need to give the minister of labour the power to act in the place of the minister of human resources.

I propose that clause 21 be amended to read as follows: "The minister may authorize the commission, any other body or member of a class of bodies, or a person, or a member of a class of persons to exercise any power or perform any duty or function of the minister".

In keeping with Motion No. 1, given that we oppose the creation of the ministry of labour, we oppose such a minister's having delegatory powers.

Group No. 1 contains Motion No. 6. This clause provides for cases when no minister of labour is appointed. The said duties are redistributed by this clause.

If there is no need for a minister of labour, there should be no explicit need to reallocate the minister's responsibilities. They should normally be absorbed by the department without being included in the enabling legislation.

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11:45 a.m.

Kenora—Rainy River Ontario


Bob Nault LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Human Resources Development

Mr. Speaker, I enter this debate to talk a little about Bill C-11 and what it means for the government's labour programs.

I will deal with it right off the bat because the main thrust of the Reform Party's amendments is that there is no need for a minister of labour, that the role of a minister of labour in the Government of Canada and in the overall lives of people in the country who relate to federal jurisdiction is not important.

Members have probably heard me say this bill will allow us to take giant strides in helping Canadians with the employment challenges the entire country currently faces. It will combine the human resource functions of several departments under one roof, the Department of Human Resources Development.

There is the Minister of Human Resources Development at the helm to control and lead the new department. It might seem puzzling to some that there also needs to be a minister of labour. After all, the department of labour is one of the departments being integrated into HRDC.

Let us look at the duties of the Minister of Labour before we suggest or accept the amendments proposed by the Reform Party. These duties are described in clause 4 of the bill: "A minister of labour may be appointed by commission under the great seal to hold office during pleasure". Clause 4(2) states: "The minister of labour will be given all the powers, duties and functions related to labour matters under federal jurisdiction".

This means that one of the main responsibilities of the minister is the Canada Labour Code. The code governs industrial relations, occupational safety and health and labour standards, but only in those areas under federal jurisdiction.

The code is an important part of Canada's economic fabric. It affects the working lives of 1 million Canadians. It applies to train engineers-I have to include conductors in that because that is what I was in my previous profession-longshoremen and truckers, to grain handlers and telephone operators, to the persons who cashed people's cheques at the bank today. These people turn to us for stable industrial relations, for safety and health and for fair and productive workplaces.

Applying the Canada Labour Code is an important responsibility but the Minister of Labour also has other pieces of legislation. One of these is the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety Act. The centre produces and disseminates occupational health and safety information and helps to protect the lives and health of Canadian workers.

There are many different pieces of legislation that fall under the responsibility of the Minister of Labour, acts which deal with security, justice, equity and other matters. All of this was under the old department of labour. Not much has changed there. Except for the program for older worker adjustment, the Minister of Labour holds on to all the same responsibilities and might even add a few.

Everything the Minister of Labour needs to do, the job can be found within the framework of restructured, unified and effective organization. This keeps costs down without depriving the Minister of Labour of services or facilities needed to tend to important matters. Remember, these matters include the Canadian union movement, labour management relations, conditions in the workplace, equity for all workers and many more.

That is a lot for anybody's plate but the Minister of Human Resources Development has an even fuller plate. Therefore it makes sense to have somebody dedicated full time to such a tightly defined set of issues. This bill sets those definitions and makes those distinctions.

If anything, the past year has shown that there is more than enough work there to keep the Minister of Labour very busy. The minister is working to better harmonize federal occupational health and safety legislation and regulations with those of the provinces and territories. The minister has also been very active on industrial relations.

Last May the minister appointed an industrial inquiry commission to study industrial relations in longshoring, grain handling and other federally regulated industries on the west coast.

In June the minister established a task force to review the part of the Canada Labour Code which deals with labour relations. This is part I, but the minister also wants to modernize the other two parts of the code, and work is continuing in that regard.

The minister is reviewing the labour program so that it works better and is more cost effective while at the same time working on a North American agreement on labour co-operation.

As members can see, the restructuring has not interfered with the labour program. I would argue that the restructuring has energized the labour program. We have seen a healthy continuity between the new and the old. We have also seen how an integrated approach can lead to improvements in the economic and social well-being of Canadian citizens: industrial relations, job creation and training. All of these issues are related and all should be considered within the same holistic framework.

Removing the labour program from HRCD would therefore be a very serious mistake. After all, the Department of Human Resources Development has been with us since 1993 and we know it works. We also know the labour programs work. The department saves money. It offers a cohesive vision of Canada's human resources needs. At the same time, when technology changes almost everything we do, we need that kind of vision more than ever.

I am not asking my colleagues to leap into the unknown when I ask them to support this bill. Instead, I ask them to believe the evidence before their own eyes. I am asking them to understand the importance of a minister of labour in the overall scheme of things.

It is a very shallow argument by the Reform Party that because the government did not have a minister of labour for the first two it obviously did it for political reasons. My argument is that after two years it realized, as governments do, that it made a mistake and it did need a minister of labour because that area of expertise is very specific and needs to be looked after on a daily basis by an individual whose main job is to look after the rights of workers in the federal jurisdiction.

I applaud the Prime Minister and the new Minister of Labour. We now have gone back as far as the 1900s to one of the first four departments created by the government, the labour department. We have recognized over the years that labour is very important. We recognize that a minister is very important.

I recommend to members that they reject out of hand the opposition's suggestion that there is no need for a minister of labour in the Human Resources Development Department.

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11:55 a.m.


Don Boudria Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, I was provoked into speaking on this group of amendments by the thought that someone wanted to eliminate the position of minister of labour.

I want to speak to the tremendous qualifications of the individual who presently holds the position. I am sure all Canadians will be impressed.

I have to ask myself why one would want to remove the position of the minister responsible for the working people? Why would we not want to have a minister of labour? Let us look at the issue.

This amendment, if passed, would eliminate the representation of the working people of Canada from the cabinet table. Think of the impact of that. This is a proposal from the Reform Party, the party that says it is grassrooty, that it comes from the salt of the earth and represents ordinary, working Canadians. It depends on what day we speak to those members. They pretend to represent a variety of things. At least on occasion they pretend to be the party of the average person.

What are those members proposing to the House today? What are they asking Parliament to do? They are asking to eliminate the position of the minister responsible for working people, the person who sits at the cabinet table to represent them. I hope all workers in the next election campaign get copies of this amendment and distribute it widely.

Whether a person is unionized or otherwise, the principle is the same. They are trying to eliminate that representation from the cabinet table. Whether working for a railway under federal jurisdiction, an airport, a TV station, a radio station, a crown corporation in any position, the Government of Canada or the wheat pool, the member from Kenora will know that all these people are covered by acts of Parliament as opposed to provincial legislatures. The Minister of Labour is the representative of all these people at the cabinet table.

I know the hon. member spoke cannot speak again on her amendments, but perhaps others in her caucus who have assisted with the drafting of these amendments can enlighten the House on why it is appropriate and desirable to abolish the position of minister of labour, the representative of the working person at the cabinet table. I have some difficulty with that.

They also want to remove the provision whereby cabinet could decide to have a deputy minister of labour. That is optional. It is not compulsory. It is an option the government has. They want to restrict or remove that option in addition to abolishing the position of the minister.

I do not know how long the Reform Party had to think about all this. I suspect it was probably done on the back of an envelope with not much thought. I say this respectfully. I ask all hon. members in the House why they would want to eliminate the position of the minister of labour, to deprive the working people of Canada of a voice at the cabinet table.

I wonder if workers from all over the country who voted when byelections were held a few days ago knew that the Reform Party wanted to remove their representative from the cabinet table. And when they do become aware of this fact-and they will certainly find out when they hear about the amendments being debated today-I wonder if those few who were tempted to vote for the Reform Party will still be inclined to do so, knowing that their representative would no longer sit at the cabinet table. Imagine making the member for Saint-Léonard-not the person but the position-disappear; the Reform Party would want to see the Minister of Labour dropped from cabinet and not be replaced.

Workers would not be represented by anyone. Zero representation, that is what the Reform Party wants. Does that make any sense like the member says? It is appalling.

Let us take a minute and look at the extremely good and well qualified individual that presently holds the position, the hon. member for Saint-Léonard.

Until recently the member for Saint-Léonard was Secretary of State for Parliamentary Affairs. He has very extensive experience. He studied at the Sir George Williams campus of Concordia University and had a career in accounting. He is a chartered accountant. He also had a very elegant and interesting political career. He was a school trustee and was president of a very large school board. He was elected as member of Parliament in 1984, re-elected in 1988 and also in 1993. And now, they would want that person removed from the cabinet table. As I said before, it is not the member himself they want to get rid of, but his presence in cabinet.

I can hear some hon. members heckling from the other side and I am almost tempted to answer myself this proposition of the Reform Party to make the hon. member from Saint-Léonard disappear from the cabinet table. No, it is not done, and it will not be done, fortunately, because workers in Canada, when they hear later today or early tomorrow, that Reform members want to do away with the position of Minister of Labour will call Reform members to order.

When Reform members board their plane to go home this afternoon, tomorrow or whenever, I am sure that airline employees will greet them a little less warmly, knowing that they want to do away with their representative in cabinet.

This is what the Reform Party wants to do and it is a shame. I tell you it is a shame. From one end of the country to the other, people will rebel against this suggestion, especially since Canadians hold the member responsible for this portfolio, the hon. member for Saint-Léonard, in such high regard, as he is very qualified and elegant. They would like to remove this great speaker in the House of Commons, this great defender of workers, from cabinet. Can you imagine that. It is a shame and Canadians will never accept that we do away with their representative in cabinet, especially someone with the qualities of the hon. member for Saint-Léonard.

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

Madam Speaker, I feel it is important, as we start considering the

amendments to Bill C-11, to remind the House of the initial purpose of the bill, which is to create a Department of Human Resources Development. Incidentally, this department has already been in operation for three years, but the government went ahead without parliamentary approval and we are now trying to regularize the situation.

What is important to know is that this bill will, in short, formalize systematic encroachment in the areas of education and manpower and will, for the first time, make it possible for the federal government to legally interfere as much as it wants in all areas that have long been recognized as provincial jurisdictions.

Second, this department is, I believe, a bureaucratic monster that will encompass very different sectors. One may be a little surprised by the amendment put forth by the Reform Party, since not appointing a Minister of Labour would bring about this bureaucratic world. This, I think, goes against Reform policy, against giving members of Parliament and ministers more say in what the government does. Because of the size of this department, the minister must very often rely on the positions advocated by senior officials.

The best proof of this is the department's stubborn determination to go ahead with a UI reform no one in Quebec and Canada wants. After being told stories by bureaucrats and perhaps also by other groups that would benefit from a deterioration in people's working conditions, we must now deal with today's reality. We must not make the problem worse. I think the Reform amendment should be rejected.

Let us consider the consequences of no longer having a Minister of Labour. Let us not forget that some emergency situations may require special legislation, as when the government felt we needed a special law in the area of rail transport. Not having a Minister of Labour per se could create some very difficult situations. The Minister of Human Resources Development cannot spend all the time needed on those activities. There must be some independent thinking on issues that are closely related.

The Department of Human Resources Development deals with pension issues. The Minister of Labour often has to appoint people as negotiators or conciliators to intervene in labour conflicts involving this kind of situation, and he could be placed in a conflict of interest position. It would therefore be better for the government to appoint a Minister of Labour.

Another major reason to proceed like this in the future is that we must go ahead with the reform of the Canada Labour Code that has been promised for so long and on which the government is dragging its feet. If passed, the amendment put forward by the Reform Party would just give the government one more excuse to delay amending the labour code for another six, eight, twelve or eighteen months. But if, on the other hand, there was someone in cabinet who was identified as responsible for this, we could check with this person, in April, May or June, if indeed the consultations under way will result in changes to the labour code. Will anti-strikebreaking legislation covering federal areas of jurisdiction finally be introduced, yes or no? Only a minister can answer this kind of question.

If the responsibility rests with someone else in cabinet, this could be will just one issue among others and any delay, like those experienced in amending the labour code, will seem more normal or acceptable.

Let me give you another example. In the past weeks, a bill authorizing nuclear industries to be subject to provincial labour laws, if need be, was considered in committee.

If there were only one minister responsible, it would be more difficult to get things done, like having a sub-committee look into a matter. Should we need the minister to appear before the human resources development committee and the labour committee at the same time, it would be physically impossible for him to be at both places at the same time. This goes to show that the proposed amendment would have a very negative effect on labour relations in Quebec and Canada. I do not think that we will be able to support it.

Why is the Minister of Labour important? Why is it necessary to have one all the time and to be able to appoint one when the government sees fit? To make sure that action can be taken. The anti-scab legislation I referred to earlier is a very important issue in our society. There are two realities. There are workers who are covered by provisions ensuring that their labour relations with their employers are much healthier and on a more equal footing. The are also workers who have no protection in that respect.

Unless the federal government takes a strong stand, clearly showing his commitment to resolving this problem and actually resolving it, this will result in a repetition of situations like the dispute at Ogilvie Mills.

Remember the strike, not the one in 1920, but in 1995. Workers on the picket lines had to contend with bullies hired by the company to let non-union workers go in. Such a deplorable situation-the use of scabs-is very bad for labour relations. The malaise persists long after the signing of a collective agreement, sometimes forever. This type of situation greatly affects labour relations. If we do not have a labour minister who is accountable, it will be even harder to settle such conflicts.

What is the purpose of the Reform Party's amendment? It may simply be a matter of reducing costs. However, we have to make sure that it is indeed the case and that we are not in fact killing investments. If we come to the conclusion that there is no need for

a labour minister, we will also conclude that this is not an important sector.

There may another reason behind this amendment. Perhaps the Reform Party realized that-and the government is partly to blame for that-after the new human resources development minister took office, the first person appointed as labour minister was someone who was not a cabinet member. That person was to be responsible for the referendum issue, and we had the impression that the government had created this position strictly to allow her to come on board.

This left a very negative impression. That person has since been replaced. It goes without saying that, during the months when she was in charge of the labour portfolio, the former minister spent most of her time working on the referendum. Several issues that should have been taken care of were left untouched, and it may be that the Reform Party feels that the same situation could happen over and over again, and that we will never have someone who will put all his energy into dealing with this issue.

I feel that we will be better able to solve the issue by working in this House, asking questions and criticizing the labour minister's performance. If, in fact, the current minister is spending the bulk of his time on political organizing because he is the minister responsible for electoral organization in Quebec for the Liberal Party of Canada, then we will be able to judge whether he has devoted more time to the political organization of his party than to workers, who will have to look at his performance and see whether he has been effective.

Not just workers, but employers as well, because we are increasingly realizing that for Canada and Quebec to be competitive, it is important that there be more joint action, more pooling of ideas with respect to objectives in order to be able to secure a good position on world markets and keep up with the competition.

For these reasons, it seems to me that the Reform Party amendment, however good the intentions behind it, does not correspond to the needs of Quebec and of Canada because we need a labour minister, and in the short term, we need a reform of the labour code and new anti-scab legislation.

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12:10 p.m.


Shaughnessy Cohen Liberal Windsor—St. Clair, ON

Madam Speaker, I am from Windsor which is a union town. The people of Windsor are watching the Reform Party very closely. Of course it does not have much hope there. It received about 4,500 votes in my riding in the last election. However, I heard by the grapevine that Reformers think they may have an opportunity there. Let me tell them that in the next campaign the Liberal members from Windsor will be sure to tell our citizens that the Reform Party wants to eliminate labour's only representative at the cabinet table.

I do not know why anyone should be surprised. The Reform Party stands opposed to most of the goals of organized labour.

Organized labour wants better conditions for working men and women. The Reform Party is opposed. Organized labour wants employment equity. The Reform Party is opposed. Organized labour, indeed all working men and women in Canada, want parity for men and women in the labour force. The Reform Party is opposed. Organized labour would like some form of protection during strikes, some form of anti-scab legislation. The Reform Party is opposed.

Reform just does not limit itself in its opposition to issues of specific concern to labour but issues of general concern in our society where labour has taken a lead. On the Canada Health Act and the principles of the Canada Health Act, Reform is opposed. On gun control, which Canadian labour spoke out clearly on, Reform is opposed. On Canada pension plan reform, Reform is opposed; it wants to eliminate CPP. On employment insurance reform, the Reform Party is opposed. On human rights amendments, the Reform Party is opposed. On humane and careful deficit reduction, Reform is opposed to that as well.

These guys, and most of them are guys, remain opposed to almost everything that this government has tried to do for the working people of Canada. Indeed we ought to change the name of their leader from leader of the third party to Dr. No when it comes to labour related initiatives.

I have a message for Dr. No. Working men and women in Canada are watching him. Indeed, working men and women in Windsor are watching him very closely. This motion is simply a symptom of the greater disease in the Reform Party, the disease I call the "I'm all right Jack" syndrome. What happens with this syndrome is they say: "I've got mine, I did okay and I am not responsible for anyone else". This government does not operate that way and it is just not good enough for us.

This government wants labour to have representation at the table when cabinet decisions are made and when policy initiatives are taken. It is important to this government to have someone there who has had experience in labour, who understands working men and women and who wants to do the best for them. It is important that this government has someone there particularly during this crucial period who will consult with and bring the views of labour to the table.

Who better could have been chosen but the former Minister of Labour and the present Minister of Labour? My colleague, the chief government whip, indicated some of his qualifications. One of the things he left out was that this minister's first job when we came to Canada was as a union organizer in the garment district in

Montreal. What better person could we have to speak for the working men and women of Canada at the cabinet table than this minister?

The human resources development department is one that I and others became familiar with during the last session of Parliament. I sat on that committee. It is a huge department. Frankly, it requires more than one hand at the tiller. It seems to me that when the Prime Minister took a hard look at the development of that department and how it was moving along, he was wise to single in on labour as the one area that needed special attention. As a result of that we now have this minister who has established himself well within the labour community and who is going to move forward with the kind of labour code and other initiatives that we require.

The powers of the Minister of Labour are not changing in terms of program statutes that existed prior to the human resources development act. The Minister of Labour will continue to be named in federal labour legislation, such as the Canada Labour Code, the Fair Wages and Hours of Labour Act, the Government Employees Compensation Act and the Non-smokers' Health Act which is part of that mandate.

The human resources act requires as well that the minister make use of services and facilities within the human resources development department and that he use employees from that department. This is not a case of the government creating a new department. This is a case of the government making sure that there is someone there, someone who is dedicating his attention full time to the concerns of the working men and women of Canada.

Why would Reform oppose that? I do not know. I suppose it was Dr. No's idea.

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12:15 p.m.


Chuck Strahl Reform Fraser Valley East, BC

Madam Speaker, I thought I should get up and answer a few of the more preposterous things that are coming from the government whip and some of the other members on the other side of the House. They would know that the reason we proposed our amendments is that we are concerned about wasteful government spending and we are trying to save the Canadian taxpayer some dollars. That was the basis of our argument and our motion on the position of minister of labour.

I must say that we in the Reform Party have absolutely nothing to learn from the federal Liberal Party and the government when it comes to labour relations and how to treat people. Our policies clearly state that we recognize the right of workers to organize unions, to strike peacefully, and to carry out the business of collective bargaining. We fully understand and recognize that. It is in our policies. Any words to the contrary are words dreamed up in the minds of the Liberal spin doctors.

What we are getting at today is that the position of the minister of labour was left vacant in the first cabinet of our Prime Minister. He put together a cabinet with no post of minister of labour. The reason was clear. It had been eliminated previously by Kim Campbell and had been seen as part and parcel of human resources development and of managing that portfolio. Suddenly the Liberals needed someone from Quebec supposedly to run their unity campaign. So they created the post and stuck a person in there in order to give them a profile and a position to supposedly fight the national unity campaign.

By the looks of how that went, I would suggest it was a double barrelled failure all around but still, they muddled through that. That is why the post was created. It was strictly a political post created to give a newcomer to the House a position, some way to get them close to cabinet and give them a profile in Quebec.

On the general issues of how the government is behaving or handling the labour relations side, has it improved since they got the position of minister of labour filled? As I mentioned, there is something to learn here, but there are no positive lessons about labour management relations from the government. If ever there was a government that speaks out of both sides of its mouth on the issue, this government has raised it to a new level.

I would like to know how many members opposite campaigned on a promise to cancel the workforce adjustment directive for public service workers. I wonder how many over there campaigned on a promise to lay off 45,000 federal civil servants because they cannot get their ducks in a row as far as the debt and deficit are concerned. I wonder how many of them campaigned on that promise.

I wonder how many said: "You have the right to a collective bargaining process but as soon as there is a strike in the port system, we will legislate you back to work. In other words, you have the right, but of course we will not let you use it". I wonder how many Liberals campaigned on that.

I wonder how many people in the labour movement know that the Minister of Human Resource Development will not even talk to the head of the Canadian Labour Congress. He says: "We have nothing to discuss so take a powder Bob". I wonder how many people in the Liberal Party campaigned on that in Windsor. I wonder how many of them go to Hamilton and say: "I am proud to say that our minister will not talk to the head of the Canadian Labour Congress".

It is just a little far fetched to say that the Reform Party is anti-labour. The Reform Party says it needs to find solutions to work together to find ways to make the collective bargaining system work well. As we all know, there are places in Canada where the strike system does not work, where there are essential

services, where there are no checks and balances and where neither the workers nor the Canadian taxpayers are protected.

We have proposed binding final offer arbitration for those areas. We are up front about that. It is far better to be up front about that than to say: "We will let you bargain, then at the last minute we will come in with the heavy hammer of the federal government and legislate you back to work. So you have no rights and even the rights you do bargain collectively for, we will cancel them when we want to".

The government has a dismal record on labour issues. It is pitiful.

When the government says that the people in organized labour are clamouring for employment equity it probably may be true that the head of some of those organizations are. If the Liberals got off their high horse, got their heads out of the upper echelons of the theoretical, got down to the grassroots and asked the people there how many they thought should be hired on the basis of the colour of their skin, their gender or to fill a quota of certain categories in the workplace, how many would say that? The answer is hardly anybody. Certainly people who are in the affected categories will not even say that is a good thing.

It is a case of the government saying it will listen when it wants to. It has very selective hearing. That is part of the problem when you are in Ottawa for too long: your ears go numb and your tongue starts flapping. The government has been guilty of that time and again. The government has not listened well to what Canadians really want on labour issues. Instead it plays the charade, talks out of both sides of its mouth and tries to blame the Reform Party for what is a very weak record on labour issues.

This motion to eliminate the position of the minister of labour is not because the position of labour is not important. Of course labour issues are critical to the economic success of our country. The ability to work well together, to look after grievances in the workplace, to be able to put forward things of importance to the grassroots in the workplace, by all means these are good things. But to say that none of this can happen unless we have another ministry with all the hangers on and the money that goes with it is just not true.

As a matter of fact the very first cabinet the government brought in did not have a minister of labour. What happened then? Did the world collapse? Did the labour movement suddenly come under the jackboot of authority? It is just not true. That position is not necessary. It can save considerable money. It can save another political appointment position. It would not hurt the Canadian labour movement at all to know that its concerns on health, unemployment insurance, all these issues were being looked after by the minister who administers those programs.

What we have now is a minister in HRD who says he will not talk to the president of the Canadian Labour Congress. What is the other minister supposed to do? Ask him please to talk? It is his job to talk. One wonders where the Liberals are coming from on this. It seems to me that they must have more positions to fill, more favours to hand out than they have positions available and so they created another.

In order to look after the labour movement it is not necessary to have that position. That is why our proposal would eliminate it. It would save the taxpayers considerable dollars and would still allow the labour market to function very well.

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12:25 p.m.

Hillsborough P.E.I.


George Proud LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Labour

Madam Speaker, I want to set the record straight on an issue that was raised a moment ago by the hon. member across the way that the Minister of Labour will not meet with the president of the Canadian Labour Congress. The Minister of Labour has met on many occasions with the president of the Canadian Labour Congress. In fact this morning they met at 8 a.m.

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12:25 p.m.


Chuck Strahl Reform Fraser Valley East, BC

The minister of HRD.

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12:25 p.m.


George Proud Liberal Hillsborough, PE

That is on a different issue.

It is ridiculous that a party in this House would stand up and say that 750,000 workers in this country should not have a minister designated to administer the act that they come under. This has always been the case. In recent times we did not have a minister but I cannot understand anybody getting up in this House and saying that these people do not deserve to have a minister to represent them.

The Ministry of Labour has existed for a long time. It has now been rolled in with Human Resources Development Canada. We have other organizations in this country that have ministers and departments responsible for them.

The reason for the minister is that the department was one of the four founding departments which helped create human resources development in 1993. Until the first minister, the member for Saint-Henri-Westmount, assumed the office, the human resources development minister acted in that capacity.

I believe that under the Canada Labour Code, which has been reviewed just recently and to which changes are imminent, a minister of labour must be on the scene to look after things. Situations also arise from time to time in the stevedoring industry, the rail industry and the airline industry that are best handled by individuals dealing directly with those situations as they arise.

I find it hard to believe that people would suggest that this is a waste of money. I do not believe it is. The matters being dealt with in this specific case under the Canada Labour Code are working conditions, safety and health and the jurisdiction of labour negotiations. With a such large group of Canadians, it is really irresponsible for parties to recommend that this ministry should not exist.

With the proposals that will be coming forward dealing with amendments to parts I, II and III of the Canada Labour Code, the ministry will be very busy over the next number of weeks and months. As well, other situations might arise.

If one looks today at the number of contracts that are expiring and the negotiations that are going on in various industries which fall under the jurisdiction of the Minister of Labour, one would find that some problems will exist before the year is out where the services of the department will be needed. It is very important when there are situations like this that the leaders of both sides can sit down with a minister designated for that specific department.

This is very necessary. I do not know the full reason behind what the members of the Reform Party are saying. It appears that they are seeking to eliminate the post but the rationale for it seems somewhat unclear. The member who just spoke a moment ago was referring to our ability to create good labour relations. The Liberal Party has been in power for many years over the last century and labour relations in this country have not suffered greatly because of that.

I do not think I need to take any lessons from the party across the way on how to administer labour legislation. I am sure that any time any of the labour unions in Canada want to hear my voice on any of the issues that are before it I have never ever failed to speak to it and I will never do that as long as I am in public life.

I have served in government for the last number of years and have never been anti-labour. I have certainly helped to bring people together in whatever capacity I was in. I served in another jurisdiction as minister of labour. I happen to believe that by continuing to work with these parties, situations can be brought to final solutions. It probably would not happen if it was a huge department and the minister had many other areas to look after.

Therefore, I think a very necessary thing came about when the Prime Minister appointed a Minister of Labour last year. We have to continue to keep that and build on it. Probably some days I would argue for a specific department. However, with the situation the way it is now with the amalgamation of the four departments into one, I am still quite confident that we can go forward with the ministries in place and the people, the assistants, the deputy ministers and the staff to make this a very workable and great administration for the Canada Labour Code. To me the Canada Labour Code is very important legislation.

The Sims report was recently given to the minister and there will be consultations across the land in the not too distant future on what parties believe needs to be changed or if any changes need to be made. When things have been around for a long time some think they should be changed. Sometimes they have worked so well that it may not be necessary to make any major changes.

It is necessary to have a minister of labour. That has been proven in the past number of days with the legislation put through the House. It was a good effort on the part of the three parties involved in it. That was brought forward by the minister. This must continue. The people under this legislation need an individual, whomever he or she may be, to see to air their problems, their situations and their suggestions as we move forward.

Labour management at the best of times is mostly confrontational. That is the way it is. There is no other way to put it. We all talk of ways to change it to make it more compatible. Usually when it comes down to the nuts and bolts of a contract or a dispute of whatever magnitude, it does become very confrontational. These are the reasons for ministers, these are the reasons for conciliation officers who are responsible to that minister.

I have said enough on this issue. For the life of me I cannot see why any party in the House would say at this time that this ministry is not needed. It is a very important ministry which should be continued and built upon.

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12:35 p.m.


Francine Lalonde Bloc Mercier, QC

Madam Speaker, when we saw Bill 96-which became Bill C-111-for the first time, we were very concerned, because this bill, which sets up a new department, the Department of Human Resources Development, in fact institutionalizes the overlap with all of the provinces, including, of course, Quebec. The way it is done makes it extremely difficult to amend this bill.

The Apostle Paul said: "For the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life". It is extremely difficult to amend this legislation, because the words in it translate a spirit, which is the Department of Human Resources Development, but without defining it, give a minister of the federal government jurisdiction over all human resources development in Canada, when, as we know, the Constitution of 1867 made it the general responsibility of the provinces, which was then amended very precisely to provide for old age pensions, family allowances and an unemployment insurance scheme.

Apart from these three constitutional amendments, provincial responsibility remains intact. The effect of the bill then is to wipe out the responsibility of the provinces and enable a federal

minister to take it over with everybody's money. So the problem with Bill C-96 is not that the Minister of Human Resources Development may designate a minister of labour. No, the problem is the Minister of Human Resources Development. The Department of Human Resources Development is a Conservative holdover.

I know that not many of our colleagues across the way or beside us will admit it. But without Kim Campbell, whose government that lasted about 100 days decided to merge several departments for the avowed purpose-which cost her dearly-of carrying out a general reform of social programs, something the Liberals swore they would never do, I am convinced there would never have been a Department of Human Resources Development because it was a major upheaval.

Yet, the senior officials who submitted this proposal to Ms. Campbell are still there. I would like to tell my colleagues on this side, who are now on my left-this is but one way of referring to them, otherwise it would be improper-that the fewer ministers there are, the more senior officials lead the way; we must be very clear on this.

I think there is a very clear link between what came out in the last days of the Tory government and what the Liberal government came up with. I am sure the Conservatives could have done the same thing with social program reform, except that the Liberals, had they been in opposition, would have been vigorously opposed because this reform is totally unacceptable.

Let us look at the Department of Labour. There is a Canadian Department of Labour. Even if the Minister of Human Resources Development were not allowed to appoint a Minister of Labour, the Prime Minister could appoint one. In my opinion, this amendment would only prevent the Minister of Human Resources Development from appointing a designated minister. This is the only effect it might have. It would not prevent the Prime Minister from appointing a Minister of Labour.

Let us look at the Department of Labour, which is also the result of history. Federalists should perhaps be reminded that, had the London Privy Council not returned labour relations to provincial jurisdiction in 1925, labour relations would now come under federal jurisdiction. Fortunately, it is not the case, except for those employees who, without getting technical, work for the federal government or for organizations whose function is considered of national interest and therefore extends beyond the confines of a single province.

From a social point of view, Labour Canada is lagging behind now. We have no problem with there being a Department of Labour and no problem with there being a Minister of Labour, but we do have a problem with the positions she has taken. In the rail dispute, the Minister of Labour could have seized the opportunity to boost ideas of joint labour-management action.

Instead, she preferred boosting labour relations based on the primary interest of employers. Too bad, but just the same, it is sad. It is sad because Canada will never get out of the situation it is in right now if the current Minister of Labour and the government as a whole, including the Minister of Human Resources Development, do not stop displaying the attitude they have been displaying recently regarding employees.

This attitude is unworthy of a so-called Liberal government, but above all it is counter-productive if what their goal is indeed to improve the social and economic situation.

It is important to have a labour minister provided the minister sees to it that labour relations in organizations falling under his jurisdiction abide by rules allowing a certain power relationship between the parties. To replace the words "power relationship", we could talk about the ability the parties should have to talk to and listen to one another.

When one side, that is when employers are so strong that they do not care about workers-because the reverse is very rare-it is always dangerous, including from an economic point of view, because workers can resort to a measure that can have terrible consequences. Let us not forget that, while workers can be forced to work, they cannot be forced to work well. They cannot be forced to use all their imagination and motivation.

And without that imagination, that motivation and that commitment from workers, any economy is bound to suffer. In Canada, the Minister of Labour, the Minister of Human Resources Development and the government should be much more concerned about ensuring that workers have decent working conditions and social security, precisely to promote that socio-economic productivity.

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12:45 p.m.


Antoine Dubé Bloc Lévis, QC

Madam Speaker, as a member of the human resources development committee and a member of the official opposition, I oppose the amendment brought forward by the Reform Party. This amendment seeks to abolish-as the government whip pointed out-the position of labour minister. It seeks to eliminate the possibility of appointing such a minister.

Through magic or a simple amendment, an important position would thus disappear. The hon. member for Mercier mentioned all the things that a labour minister in Canada could do to settle certain disputes. She alluded to the role that the former labour minister could have played in the railway conflict. In my riding, there are 500 CN employees working at the Charny yard. They were very dissatisfied with the performance of the then labour minister.

However, this does not mean that we should eliminate that position. If you exclude the amount that is used to pay interest, almost half of the federal government's budget goes to the Department of Human Resources Development. The human resources minister already has enough on his hands without having to assume the duties of labour minister.

If we eliminated the position of labour minister and transferred the responsibilities to the Minister of Human Resources Development, the latter would sometimes find himself in awkward or difficult situations.

The human resources development minister manages not only money, but also human resources everywhere in Canada, as well as financial resources which are allocated to organizations and businesses. The minister might not find himself in a conflict of interest situation, but it would put him in an awkward position.

It is good and also important to keep the position of labour minister separate. This is what I had to say on the issue.

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12:50 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Ringuette-Maltais)

Is the House ready for the question?

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12:50 p.m.

Some hon. members


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12:50 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Ringuette-Maltais)

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?