moved that Bill C-3, an act to amend the Canada Labour Code (nuclear undertakings) and to make a related amendment to another act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Mr. Speaker, I am happy to rise this morning to present to the House Bill C-3, an act to amend the Canada Labour Code (nuclear undertakings) and to make a related amendment to another act. This bill is aimed at promoting stable and productive labour relations at Canada's nuclear plants.
I first want to point out that this legislative measure does not diminish in any way Canada's responsibility to protect people against radiation from some nuclear plants.
In 1993, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that Part I of the Canada Labour Code applied to some Hydro Ontario employees, namely all those working at nuclear plants, which are subject to section 18 of the Atomic Energy Control Act. This section deals with nuclear plants that are declared to be for the general advantage of Canada.
The Supreme Court made this statement following a 1988 ruling by the Ontario Labour Relations Board that it was not constitutionally qualified to hear an accreditation application from the Society of Ontario Hydro Professional and Administrative Employees.
This decision was appealed to the Ontario courts, then to the Supreme Court of Canada, which ruled that Part I of the Canada Labour Code governing labour relations applied to Hydro Ontario's nuclear plant workers.
Subsequently it was clear that part II and part III of the code, along with the Non-Smokers' Health Act, also applied to these workers. Part II of the code covers occupational safety and health and part III covers labour standards.
In practical terms the results of the decision means that approximately 42 per cent of Ontario Hydro's employees are under the jurisdiction of the Government of Canada and the remainder are subject to the labour laws of Ontario.
It is clear that two separate labour legislations applying to a single group of employees constitutes an exceptional situation. But while being exceptional, this particular and complex situation causes problems to the employees, their union and Hydro Ontario. These problems result from having to work under two similar but slightly different labour systems.
For example, while producing the same effects, occupational health and safety regulations may vary.
There are some differences between federal and provincial technical specifications for the design of scaffolding. However, the cost of replacing scaffolding to meet federal requirements would not provide a corresponding improvement in safety.
A similar situation applies to portable power tools. Under federal legislation, portable power tools must meet standards set by the Canadian Standards Association but Ontario Hydro requires that three-pronged CSA approved plugs on portable power tools be replaced with a twist lock plug. Replacing all plugs and outlets or seeking the approval of the Canadian Standards Association for the twist lock plug would result in substantial costs with no corresponding improvement in safety.
These few examples go to show that split jurisdictions are inefficient, entail costs to companies and governments and do not produce any real benefit. After consideration, Ontario Hydro concluded that workers are provided the same protection under
provincial and federal laws, even if the means prescribed to ensure this protection may differ.
However, these differences add to costs but the employees' safety is not enhanced in any way as a result.
Regarding collective bargaining, the company and unions must contend with two conciliation processes in the negotiation of collective agreements. Ontario Hydro and the unions have a longstanding collective bargaining relationship under the provincial regime going back 50 years.
Because of these concerns, early in 1994 federal and provincial government officials began to discuss the complicated issue of how to apply provincial law to Ontario Hydro. Initially the talks, which also included the company and the union, focused on occupational safety and health law. As talks progressed between my officials and their provincial counterparts, Ontario officials expressed the desire to have all provincial labour laws apply to the province's nuclear facilities.
Federal officials agreed that from a practical standpoint it would be logical to have all provincial labour law apply to Ontario Hydro as well as any ad hoc labour legislation the province might adopt in the future.
Because of the difficulties produced by a split jurisdiction and the type of work done at Ontario Hydro, it is felt that the application of provincial labour legislation would be the best guarantee of efficient and stable labour relations at Ontario Hydro.
The effects of the 1993 Supreme Court ruling did not stop at the province of Ontario, but are also relevant as far as Point LePreau generating station in New Brunswick and Quebec's Gentilly II. Both provincial crowns appear to be in a legislative void for the purposes of labour law, although in practice provincial laws continue to be applied.
In the case of Gentilly II this was confirmed by a 1995 Federal Court of Appeal decision. In its decision the Federal Court invited Parliament to forthwith fill the void.
I must point out that the bill before the House does not affect in any way the Canadian government's responsibility concerning radiation protection in nuclear plants. Today we are setting a legislative framework for the transfer to the provinces-be it Quebec, New Brunswick, Ontario or even Saskatchewan, because federal and provincial apply to mines-of our jurisdiction over labour under the Labour Code and related legislation.
Of course, in Quebec's case, it is quite simple, because we are just not involved over there. Workers there are governed by provincial labour laws. So, immediately after this legislation is passed, we expect Quebec to submit its draft regulations, upon which the federal jurisdiction over labour will be transferred.
It is up to the Atomic Energy Control Board to ensure this kind of protection. The proposed changes will have no impact on the board's mandate in this regard.
For many years, conventional, that is non nuclear, occupational safety and health legislation administered by the provinces have coexisted with the provisions of the Atomic Energy Control Act regarding radiation protection.
This sharing of responsibility between provincial governments and the Atomic Energy Control Board does not pose any problem and never raised any concerns over nuclear safety.
Finally, as regards the other act amended by the bill, hon. members can rest assured that the Ontario legislation governing the use of tobacco in the workplace protects workers as well as the corresponding federal measure does. Consequently, one should not be concerned if we transfer the powers provided in the Non-smokers' Health Act. Provincial legislation is as good as ours.
This is what led us to introduce this bill today.
By simply amending the Canada Labour Code and the Non-Smokers' Health Act, the federal government will provide a mechanism that allows for the application of provincial labour law at nuclear facilities. It is a move that makes much sense in terms of promoting efficient and stable labour relations in these industries.
The bill provides a mechanism to eliminate the split jurisdiction in Ontario and can also be applied in New Brunswick and Quebec, as I stated before. In addition, the mechanism may be applied to the uranium mines in Saskatchewan which are also regulated by the Atomic Energy Control Act.
Let us begin with the split jurisdiction in Ontario. At present, the company is faced with having to comply with two sets of labour legislation, one federal and one provincial. The bill provides a mechanism to correct that. It works this way. First, the company is exempted from having to comply with the Canada Labour Code. At the same time, it is made subject to provincial labour laws which are incorporated by reference into federal regulations.
The mechanism may be triggered by passing regulations in respect of industrial relations, including ad hoc or emergency legislation, occupational safety and health, labour standards or workplace smoking rules and regulations. Once the regulations are in place, provincial labour laws may be applied to nuclear facilities.
I would like to turn now to some specific points regarding the ramifications of the bill. Regarding occupational safety and health, the bill provides that provincial occupational safety and health inspectors may carry out on site inspections. The bill also allows the provincial labour relations board to hear and determine cases in respect of labour relations law applying to these nuclear facilities.
In this case of collective bargaining any bargaining agent that was recognized under part I of the Canada Labour Code remains the bargaining agent under the provision of this bill. This ensures successor rights to the bargaining agent and prohibits other unions from applying to represent that bargaining unit outside of regular procedures.
Any collective agreement concluded under part I of the Canada Labour Code continues in force until the life of the contract expires. This ensures the rights, privileges and duties of both parties to the collective agreement remain intact.
Other provisions in the bill deal with the application of regulations, administration, the penalty for committing an offence, responsibility for prosecutions and the disposition of any fines that might be levied.
As hon. members know, the government pledged to manage its finances efficiently and to ensure that the administrative authority rests with the level of government that is best able to exercise that authority. By passing the amendments before us today, the government will fulfil that commitment.
In conclusion, I want to re-emphasize that these changes do not weaken the authority and the responsibility of the Atomic Energy Control Board in the least, since we would be going back to the structure that existed before the related 1993 Supreme Court decision.
It is because that structure worked very well that I ask hon. members to support Bill C-3. With leave of the House, if there is unanimous consent, we could agree that, instead of referring this bill to the human resources development committee, we could discuss it here in committee of the whole and then proceed immediately with third reading.