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House of Commons Hansard #142 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was workers.

Topics

Canada Labour CodeGovernment Orders

11:55 a.m.

Hillsborough P.E.I.

Liberal

George Proud LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Labour

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise this morning to speak again to Bill C-66, an act to amend part I of the Canada Labour Code which was introduced by the Minister of Labour.

I know there will be many more speakers today but I want to congratulate the hon. member for Hochelaga-Maisonneuve and the hon. member for Wetaskiwin for putting forward their comments, concerns, suggestions and fears for some of the things that are or are not in this bill. We think this is a very well balanced bill. Although it will not go all the way in doing the things we need to do for the workers and the employers under federal jurisdiction, it will still go a long way.

The legislation has a couple of very important objectives. The first objective is to update the provisions related to the collective bargaining process so it can function more effectively. The second objective is to improve the efficiency with which federal labour law is administered.

I strongly support the bill because I am a firm believer in the collective bargaining process. In my view the bill deserves the enthusiastic support of the House because it is good for workers, it is good for employers and it is good for the Canadian economy.

Members may recall that in November 1994 the federal government issued a document entitled "Building a More Innovative Economy". In this paper the government acknowledged that workplace organization and labour-management co-operation were among the key factors contributing to both employment growth and productivity growth. It states: "Well-trained workers, adaptable work organizations, effective labour-management relations, employment-employee involvement in the enterprise and safe and healthy workplaces all contribute directly to a firm's economic performance and the well-being of individual workers".

In other words, the federal government recognizes that economic betterment and human development depend not only on technological hardware and scientific virtuosity but also on our social relations and our social processes.

The mechanisms set up to deal with political, economic and social conflict are as important to national well-being as the structures built to manufacture robots, produce new software and transport resources. The collective bargaining process has generally worked very well in Canada. Indeed, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce has written: "The fact of the matter is that the existing collective bargaining system, imperfect as it might be, has served Canada well in these turbulent times which are dominated by global economic competition and massive restructuring".

In its brief to the Sims task force the Canadian Labour Congress noted that despite complaints and suggestions for improvement, the code's constituents accept the code.

I am sure members have heard many times that the vast majority of collective bargaining settlements are arrived at without a work stoppage. I believe the proportion is over 95 per cent. However, when impasses do occur, the parties have available to them highly skilled, well respected and successful mediators in both the private and public sectors. The Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service has been particularly effective in preventing and in helping to resolve labour-management disputes.

The amendments presented to us by the Minister of Labour are an important investment in the country's social capital. They modernize the federal labour law without altering its basic structure that has the overall support of both labour and management. They will produce a greater efficiency in the administration of law and in so doing will enhance legitimacy of the collective bargaining process.

I will dwell for a few minutes with the code amendments pertaining to bargaining rights. The amendments improve the way employees obtain union representation. An important and timely amendment in this section provides that when an undertaking moves from provincial to federal jurisdiction, say because of a sale, both bargaining rights and the collective agreement will continue.

At the present time the code permits the continuation of bargaining rights in the collective agreement only if the seller and buyer are both in the federal jurisdiction. This change is welcome because of the speed with which capital can move these days.

As the Sims task force report stated "successful businesses rarely remain static". Reorganizations, mergers, acquisitions, divestitures and transfers in leasings in whole or in part of enterprises have become common place. Changes in ownership can occur very quickly and very frequently resulting in changes in jurisdiction.

Members of the task force reported hearing of the use of deliberate steps by some enterprises to change jurisdictions to avoid their bargaining obligations. This kind of behaviour is unacceptable. It is one thing for a firm's employees to vote not to have a union. It is quite another for a firm to engage in various tricks to evade its bargaining obligations. For this reason I support the amendment.

The second amendment under the general category of bargaining rights has to do with successive contractors. The minister is proposing that an employer succeeding another as provider of preboard security screening services to the air transportation industry be required to pay employees who perform these services the same remuneration the employees of the previous contractor received.

The amendment has been advanced because in the past changes of contractors in this sector have resulted in loss of remuneration and employment at the end of each contract period for workers, many of whom are women and immigrants.

The minister's proposal will deter competition based on who can pay the lowest wage. It will create an even playing field for contractors whose employees are unionized. It will help to reduce turnover rates, an important security consideration in the air transport industry.

The amendment is intended to apply only to security screening the air transportation industry. However on the recommendation of the Minister of Labour the government would be able to extend the application should similar circumstances arise in other federally regulated industries.

Finally, an amendment to the code would allow the Canadian Industrial Relations Board to grant an authorized representative of a trade union a list of the names and addresses of employee that normally work in locations other than the employer's premises.

The board will also be able to authorize a trade union to communicate with those off site employees in whatever is practicable. However, such an access order will have to spell out the necessary conditions under which communications with the employees could take place so that the privacy and the security of the off site workers can be protected.

The amendment is a timely one given the rapid growth of non-standard employment, especially home based employment. It will give workers in the federal jurisdiction a choice. If as a result of the amendment the board grants a labour union access to off site workers, the workers will be able to decide for themselves whether or not they wish to be represented at the collective bargaining table. Right now they are without that choice.

Those are the major legislative proposals regarding workers' bargaining rights. They are fair and reasonable. They deal appropriately with some of the workplace realities of the 1990s. They

will do what they are designed to do, namely to improve the collective bargaining process for all concerned.

I do not think any employer in the federal jurisdiction could in all honesty describe them as onerous. Both workers and employers coming under the Canada Labour Code ought to be pleased with the balance of the amendments brought before the House by the Minister of Labour.

Canada Labour CodeGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.

Bloc

Osvaldo Nunez Bloc Bourassa, QC

Madam Speaker, I am rising today to take part in the third reading debate of Bill C-66 to amend the Canada Labour Code. It is a reform of part I of the code dealing with labour relations.

Key changes include the creation of the Canada Industrial Relations Board; the modification of the conciliation process; the clarification of the rights and obligations of parties during a work stoppage; a requirement for parties involved in a work stoppage to continue services necessary to protect public health and safety; making the undermining of a trade union's representational capacity during a strike or lockout an unfair labour practice; and improving access to collective bargaining for off-site workers.

The Canada Labour Code has not undergone major changes since the early 1970s. We all know that labour relations are a fast evolving area. In 1995, the then Minister of Labour established a task force composed of labour relations experts, including Rodrigue Blouin, professor of industrial relations at Laval University, and Paula Knopf, under the chairmanship of Andrew Sims.

The mandate of the task force was to recommend changes to part I of the code. Its report entitled "Seeking a Balance" was made public in February 1996. Labour unions and employers under federal jurisdiction in the private sector agreed with several general recommendations made by the task force. However, there was no consensus on some very important issues such as replacement workers. I recognize that this bill contains certain positive elements, but it also contains many flaws.

It must be noted that the Canada Labour Code applies to some 700,000 workers and their employers under federal jurisdiction. This sector includes banks, interprovincial and international rail and road transportation, pipelines and shipping, airports and air carriers, broadcasting and telecommunications, port operations and longshoring, grain handling and other industries declared to be to the general advantage of Canada, as well as some crown corporations. The code also applies to private sector employers and workers in the territories.

The Canada Industrial Relations Board, composed of a chairperson and vice-chairpersons and an equal number of members representing employers and workers, will replace the present Canada Labour Relations Board. These individuals will be appointed by the government. My fear is that here, as with other organizations like the IRB, the main criterion for appointment will be the political affiliation of candidates, not their ability, despite the labour minister's earlier attempts to reassure us.

The board is expected to deal rapidly with routine and urgent matters. Certain cases will be able to be heard by the vice-chairperson alone, rather than by a panel of three, as is now the case. One of the major difficulties today is the length of time it takes the board to process cases.

I have already spoken to the labour minister about the serious problems existing within the board, particularly the chairman's lack of leadership. The minister's response was neither satisfactory nor appropriate.

I hope that, with the amendments introduced by this bill, the operation of this organization will improve in future. Certain powers of the board need to be clarified, particularly with respect to the review of bargaining units and the sale of companies. It will also have to take the appropriate action with respect to certain unfair labour practices, such as those involving bargaining in bad faith. It will also be able to certify a union, even if it does not have the support of the majority of members, in cases of unfair practices by an employer.

The board will have the discretionary power to give an authorized union representative the names and addresses of employees whose normal workplace is not on the premises of the employer and to authorize the union to communicate with those employees.

I am opposed to Bill C-66 for a number of reasons, although I do acknowledge that it contains some positive points. This is an inadequate and incomplete reform. The Liberal Government has lacked courage on some very significant points, such as anti-scab clauses. Replacement workers can still be used, for the minister has made only one cosmetic change in that area.

In this connection, the government has shown itself incapable of siding with the workers. It has shown itself instead to be pro-employer. As in other bills, it has accentuated its slant to the right by giving in to pressure from employers. It must be kept in mind that the Liberal Party of Canada had voted in favour of the anti-scab measures when in opposition.

My major criticism of this bill is the lack of real anti-scab measures. As you know, I was involved for 19 years in the FTQ, the major central labour body in Quebec, which has a membership of close to half a million, 480,000 to be exact. This past February 16 marked the 40th anniversary of its founding. I attended celebrations at the Chateau Frontenac in Quebec City. These were held in exactly the same room its founding assembly had taken place in

  1. A very well made video on the history of the FTQ was shown.

It was a moving experience to hear the first leaders, many of whom are still alive, of a labour congress that today plays a major role in Quebec society. I am very proud of the years I spent in this organization with outstanding leaders like Louis Laberge, Fernand Daoust, Clément Godbout, Henri Massé, Claude Ducharme, Émile Boudreau, and so forth.

It was after a strike that went on for more than 18 months at United Aircraft, today Pratt & Whitney, in Longueuil, a strike led in 1974-75 by the Canadian Auto Workers union affiliated with the FTQ, that the Parti Quebecois government and the National Assembly adopted anti-scab legislation in 1976. It was the first legislation of its kind in Canada and came into force in 1977.

Unlike the Quebec system, because of the lack of anti-scab provisions in the Canada Labour Code, employers can resort with impunity to using replacement workers during a labour dispute. This also creates an imbalance that prevents free bargaining in good faith. It is also a source of frustration and violence. The presence of scabs, escorted by private security guards and often by the police, is unacceptable and indeed shocking. Workers who built the reputation of a business or an institution see scabs walking past them every day.

Previously, I spoke out in the House of Commons against the use of replacement workers at Ogilvie Mills in Montreal, where the workers are represented by the CSN. We also saw instances of violence in other labour disputes, especially in the railway sector.

I therefore tabled in the House on October 22, 1996, Bill C-338, legislation that would add anti-scab provisions to the Canada Labour Code and the Public Service Staff Relations Act. The bill also contains provisions to ensure that essential services are maintained in the event of a strike or a lock-out.

If passed, the bill will apply to more than 700,000 Canadian workers in federally regulated sectors.

By tabling this bill, I kept a promise I made before I was elected as a member of Parliament. Unfortunately, up to now, it is still at first reading, as it has not yet been selected in the draw.

However, many union leaders, lawyers, university professors and labour relations experts have expressed their support for it. Some union people have even written their members asking them to vote in favour of C-338 when the time comes. Despite the fact that the government showed no courage in this area, I know that a number of Liberal members agree with such legislation. Naturally my own party, the Bloc Quebecois, has expressed its approval and supports my efforts. The union movement is also going to have to exert a lot of pressure to get the federal government to introduce anti- scab legislation, finally.

Bill C-66 before us does not contain a blanket prohibition against the use of replacement workers during a work stoppage or a lockout. It prohibits their use in one very limited instance. Thus the new section 94 of the code will read as follows:

No employer or person acting on behalf of an employer shall use, for the purpose of undermining a trade union's representational capacity, the services of a person who was not an employee in the bargaining unit on the date on which notice to bargain collectively was given and was hired or assigned after that date to perform all or part of the duties of an employee in the bargaining unit on strike or locked out.

Unfortunately, in his speech this morning in response to criticism from management, the minister interpreted this section even more restrictively.

The industrial relations board will decide if an unfair practice undermines a trade union's representational capacity. This is hard to prove. If it is proven, the board will order the employer to stop using replacement workers as long as the dispute lasts. I hope the board will act quickly on issues of this kind. If it were to wait too long before coming to a decision, clause 94 would be inoperative. And the dispute would be settled before the board handed down its decision, probably to the detriment of one of the parties.

The government should look into the Quebec's experience since 1977, which has been very positive. Its antiscab provisions have resulted in less violence and reduced tension on the picket line. Members will remember that, at the time, this legislation met with a lot of anger and negative feelings on the part of Quebec's Conseil du patronat, which even challenged it in court. A decision of the Supreme Court of Canada allowed it to proceed as the representatives of employers. However, subsequently, the Conseil du patronat decided to drop the challenge because it felt that the labour relations climate in Quebec had changed a lot since passage of the legislation and, consequently, it did not want to antagonize labour. Canadian business leaders should show similar open mindedness.

I have other criticisms of Bill C-66. For instance, too many conditions apply to the right to strike or to lock out. Why should a union have to hold a secret ballot within 60 days before a strike? Why should it have to give notice of a strike 72 hours in advance?

This provision obliges the union to hold several ballots whenever negotiations drag on. Also, strike mandates will tend to disappear. The notice period is too long, even unnecessary. Because of these hard to meet requirements, many strikes will become illegal. But what is even more unacceptable is the labour minister's powers to impose a secret ballot on the employer's last offers. I condemn this undue political interference in labour relations. It is unwar-

ranted meddling in the collective bargaining process, by a third party.

I already condemned the use of this provision, passed by Parliament in 1993, during last year's dispute between Canadian International Airlines and the CAW. The vote was held. The employees agreed to new cuts in salary and new concessions, over and above what had been imposed previously. But it is not sure yet if Canadian will be able to survive.

I already mentioned some operating problems in the Canada Labour Relations Board. The bill provides for some reforms to this organization, but it should have gone a little further. For example, the government is committed to consult labour and management with regard to appointments, but it has refused to make such appointments based on lists provided by the parties. The minister missed a good opportunity to ensure that the board becomes truly representative of the parties. Political patronage, which is a trademark of this government, will continue.

Also, the board did not receive extended powers allowing it to order any compensation that, according to its judgment and experience, would reasonably correct any violation of the code and any harm that such violation may have caused.

Moreover, the bill does not deal with a demand that was made several years ago by the Public Service Alliance of Canada, which is that public servants come under part I of the Canada Labour Code. At the present time, the alliance cannot negotiate the issue of employment security, protection against technological change, job classification, appointments, promotions, transfers and so on, because it is governed by the Public Service Staff Relations Act.

Also, the bill does not allow RCMP officers to unionize and to resort to collective bargaining for their working conditions, which is unfortunate.

In the area of technological change, the government could also have been a little more daring. It could have gone further in this area, which is essential to the economic development of any country today. Workers and unions must be involved in technological change.

I would like to talk briefly about preventive withdrawal from work. Women's reproductive function causes serious discrimination in the workplace. Still today, the Canada Labour Code does not adequately protect the rights of pregnant women and nursing mothers. This is why I support the campaign launched by the Public Service Alliance of Canada to address this rather regrettable situation.

Under normal circumstances, pregnant women should be able to work. However, safe and healthy working conditions will have to be provided to ensure nothing threatens the woman or the child she is carrying or nursing.

Unfortunately, not all employers apply this principle. Instead of making the workplace a safer and healthier place-which would benefit all workers-several employers take the easy way out and withdraw pregnant women from work.

This is why the Canada Labour Code should include special provisions to ensure pregnant or nursing women can continue to work in a safe and healthy environment or receive compensation equal to their pay. In addition, it is important that this legislation apply to all Canadian women. It is time society assumed its responsibilities.

Women should not have to put up alone with the drawbacks of reproduction. Again, I call upon the government to introduce legislation on this.

Furthermore, the Sims report recommended that some powers held by the Minister of Labour be transferred to the federal mediation and conciliation service, which, unfortunately, has not been done.

Finally, I regret the government majority defeated every amendment moved by the Bloc Quebecois, although these were all amendments designed to improve the bill. For these reasons, I will vote against Bill C-66.

Canada Labour CodeGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.

Reform

Elwin Hermanson Reform Kindersley—Lloydminster, SK

Madam Speaker, I rise to add my voice to those who are speaking on Bill C-66.

I want to begin my comments by relating to the House the importance of this issue, in particular as it affects prairie grain producers who are often the victims of labour disruptions in the grain transportation system.

It is easy to become removed from the realities of how this actually affects people. We as members of Parliament have to be careful that we do not lose contact with the realities and the hardships that are imposed on innocent people when something totally beyond their control happens that affects their livelihood.

If it is something like a flood, such as we have seen on our television screens from time to time, the last one being in the United States, where somebody's home is washed away or their property is destroyed, we feel for them. We think that they did not deserve this. This should not have happened to them. They had no control over the weather. Oftentimes there is charity shown to these people and that is the way it should be. We acknowledge those who help others in times of need.

When it is something like a labour disruption which affects the livelihood of others in just as real a way as a flood that sweeps through someone's property and washes away their life's belong-

ings, we do not always have that same emotion. We do not recognize the seriousness of the situation.

There are thousands of farm families across the prairies whose livelihood is dependent on moving their grains to port for export. That is what pays the bills. That is what puts food on the table for many of my constituents in Kindersley-Lloydminster. That is what pays for the little things like buying that new dishwasher, or paying for music lessons, or perhaps buying that new piece of equipment that the farmer has been waiting so long for, for the money to actually make that purchase.

These are real decisions that real people have to make. It is very disheartening when one is trying to pay the bills and trying to get ahead, in particular if commodity prices are on the rebound as they were two or three years ago, and then one sees a labour disruption wipe out any potential for recouping losses of the past. It is pretty hard for a member of Parliament to go home and talk to people and say the House did not really care about the plight of these people. It was more interested in other issues like distinct society for Quebec or in their own MPs' pensions and so on and it was not particularly concerned that these strikes and lockouts keep reoccurring and very little over the past 30 or 40 years has been done to remedy the situation.

People who live in the agricultural community are used to taking risks. They understand that they are in a risky business. Their success is determined by the weather, by international markets. They recognize that they do not have total control over their future. But the problem of unsure markets because of transportation problems and disruptions in our transportation system is one added risk that is not required. That, added to the other risks which are unavoidable, is certainly a real problem.

To outline how serious the situation is, it was highlighted just a few weeks ago when we saw over 40 ships anchored in English Bay in Vancouver costing prairie farmers about $10,000 a day every day that they sat there waiting to take on their cargo of grain.

This problem in the grain handling system was not the result of a labour disruption but more often than not when these things do happen it is because of a labour disruption somewhere in the grain transportation system.

Whether it is a labour disruption, an equipment problem or a weather problem, of course the person who pays for the problem is the producer. In every instance the producer has had absolutely no control over the situation that has been thrust on them.

I want to recall a situation when I was first elected in 1993. It was actually in early 1994 when there was a labour disruption on the west coast. We brought the problem to the attention of the House. The minister at the time, currently the Minister of Foreign Affairs, said: "I think we can get this problem resolved". The minister of labour at the time said: "We think this is not going to be a serious problem. This lockout will pass. We trust that the two parties will come together and resolve their differences".

I do not know why the minister thought that. History tells us that is not the way these labour disruptions, these work stoppages are resolved. In fact, since 1972 six labour disputes related to the west coast ports were settled by federal back to work legislation. Two other labour disputes were settled by federal back to work legislation in 1988 and 1991. That is a total of eight disputes in less than 20 years, each one costing millions of dollars to producers.

We had two bills that we brought to this House, one in 1994 and one in 1995 that legislated workers back to work. I would contest that it is not the primary responsibility of this House to be bringing and introducing into this House back to work legislation on a regular basis.

Certainly we have the power to do that as legislators and we have done that. Members would think when we keep returning to this process time and time again that somebody somewhere would wake up and recognize that we are not solving the problem, that it seems to be getting worse.

It is a bit like raising children. If they do not deal with the difficult situation they are facing it is apt to repeat itself. People need to find some solutions if they are having problems, whether they be problems with a child's attitude or problems with a child's health.

If a problem does not go away, if it keeps repeating, they will go to a doctor or to someone who will offer some advice about how to correct the situation.

Here we have these recurring labour problems on the west coast. It is not necessarily the problem of labour all the time or management all the time. They probably both share equal responsibility for the problem.

Nevertheless, we keep blindly introducing back to work legislation, clean up the little mess and meanwhile there are millions of dollars lost to prairie producers. Then we go on our merry way, hoping that it does not reoccur.

Of course a few months later or the next year the situation does reoccur and we go back to the same debate. They will solve the problem. Government drags its feet. Finally the situation becomes intolerable and the government grudgingly brings in back to work legislation, has another debate, passes the bill and forces the workers or management to restart operations while the problem is resolved.

What happens in this case is that the two parties that disagree have no incentive to resolve their problems. They recognize that Parliament will do it for them. Therefore they are intransigent in

their positions. They fail to maximize the potential of the collective bargaining process.

If we were just talking about a trucking company, if we were just talking about a department store or if we were just talking about some other entity where there is a lot of competition, it would not matter so much if the two disputing parties could not resolve their problem and management locked out the workers or if the workers went on strike. That is fine because if we are talking about a trucking company there are 1,000 other trucking companies we could use. If we are talking about buying an automobile, if it is a major automobile manufacturer which has a work stoppage, there are other companies that we can buy our automobiles from.

The interesting thing on the prairies when there is a labour disruption on the west coast or through the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence seaway system is that it stops the flow of the lifeblood income for a major industry in Canada. That is why this situation is so serious. That is why it needs to be addressed with constructive and progressive legislation.

I am speaking about grain today because as the agriculture critic for the Reform Party it is my responsibility to represent the industry and the people who earn their livelihood from it. However, it would be the same for potash or coal. The large mining and forestry industries are affected in the same way. They also have a strong case to make in calling for adequate and uninterrupted service in getting their products to market.

If we take all the sectors together, millions of jobs and livelihoods are dependent on the efficient movement of product for export. Canada, after all, is an exporting country and when we do not export efficiently we suffer immensely on the domestic scene.

I talked about all the labour disruptions and that emergency legislation was brought into the House. Finally, the minister of labour at the time recognized that it was important to end this labour disruption and something had to be done. At that time I was House leader for the Reform Party. We got together and we agreed to speedily pass legislation through the House. The second time we introduced legislation when another labour problem reared its ugly head, there was not as much co-operation in the House. I believe the House had to sit over a weekend, including Sunday, to pass the legislation because not all parties in the House co-operated.

Emergency legislation is required when the government has waited too long to introduce legislation. There are the technicalities of trying to get the legislation through the House quickly, before further damage is done. That does not always happen. Sometimes some parties, the NDP or the Bloc Quebecois, do not co-operate. It could even be the Liberals. When in opposition they flip-flop on these types of issues. Nevertheless, the legislation is not guaranteed an easy ride through the House of Commons.

The disputing parties have no incentive to reach an agreement because they know that if they do not reach an agreement the House of Commons will legislate them back to work, at extra cost to taxpayers. Oftentimes the cost to the parties involved is less through back to work legislation than if they resolve their differences in a more constructive way.

Finally we did pass emergency legislation at a cost to the taxpayers. The taxpayers are the innocent third parties. The prairie economy lost millions of dollars. Basically nothing was resolved because the same situation could occur within months. It certainly will occur within a year or two.

What are we going to do about this? I have identified the problem. I believe my colleagues in the House would agree that it is a recurring problem. However, to identify a problem is not enough.

The government launched an inquiry. It is pretty good at holding inquiries. This inquiry was called the industrial inquiry on west coast ports. That inquiry was given a mandate and it held hearings, primarily in western Canada because its focus was on the west coast ports. The problem is not solely in the west coast port region. There are labour disputes right across the country which affect the movement of our products for export. However, the primary focus was on the west coast ports when the inquiry was commissioned by the new Minister of Labour, who retains that portfolio today.

Hearings were held and Reform was privileged to present a brief to the inquiry. In that brief we identified the costs of the 1994 west coast port labour dispute directly was over $125 million. The indirect costs which included lost future contracts was over $250 million. A figure given by the former minister of labour, the current Minister of Foreign Affairs, suggested that threatened grain sales was around $500 million. These were the potential costs of the 1994 west coast ports labour dispute.

The commission heard briefs from various parties, including Reform. Reform's position on the movement of grain since we first addressed the issue even before the 1993 election was that initially we had suggested that the movement of grain should be declared an essential service. We recognized the importance of the industry, the importance of moving the grain in a timely and efficient manner. As we spoke more with people across western Canada and across the entire nation, as we talked to the players in the industry and reviewed the situation, it became apparent there might even be a

better solution to the problem, the implementation of final offer arbitration.

Our member from Lethbridge introduced a private member's bill. It was debated in the House. It called for that resolution mechanism to be put in place to resolve labour management disputes that affect the movement of grain to port position. Unfortunately members opposite did not support that piece of legislation. I want to speak in defence of that concept with regard to Bill C-66 which unfortunately does not support the concept of final arbitration.

Reform believes in the collective bargaining process. It is a process whereby management and labour come together and try to resolve their differences and to agree on a new contract sitting down at the bargaining table. We respect and support the right of management and labour to follow that process.

Anything we have suggested in the way of final offer arbitration would not stifle or hinder the collective bargaining process from doing its thing, from undergoing its usual process. What would happen at the end of collective bargaining if it failed, and sometimes collective bargaining does fail, rather than seeing a lockout or a walkout, the two parties would get together and commit to a final offer arbitration process. Our legislation calls for the two parties to sit down and try to agree on an arbitrator and present that arbitrator as the person who would mediate their dispute. If they could not agree on someone then the powers in the legislation would be given to government to find a neutral arbitrator who would select the person who would be responsible to oversee the process.

Then the two parties would come before the arbitrator and would explain where they had reached an agreement or where they had failed to reach an agreement. In the areas where they had failed to reach an agreement each party would be invited to bring forward their best offer. Both parties, not having seen the other party's best offer, would then wait for a ruling by the arbitrator. The arbitrator would look at the two offers and see which one was the most reasonable based on the positions they both held, where they were able to agree and where they were not in agreement. It would therefore select all of one offer or all of the other.

It does not take a rocket scientist to recognize that this makes unreasonable negotiators become reasonable very quickly. If one side in the dispute were to put forward a very unreasonable position they would be at great risk because the other side may put forward a more reasonable position and they would therefore win the final offer selection arbitration process. They would come out on top in the process.

Instead of being unreasonable the two parties will attempt to be as reasonable as possible and have a slightly better offer than the offer proposed by the other side. That is quite a change in the dispute settlement mechanism. It is a very constructive change, I might add.

I know my time has almost expired. This is not some untested resolution mechanism. It has been used many times. In the government back to work legislation passed in 1994 the legislation implemented the process of final offer selection arbitration. That mechanism was legislated to solve the dispute.

If that is what the government imposed on the two parties, why not put it in Bill C-66 and nip the problem in the bud so that we do not have to keep on reviewing the issue, bringing in emergency legislation and perhaps even implementing final offer selection arbitration anyway?

It makes sense but unfortunately the Liberal government does not seem to be very interested in making sense. It seems to want to complicate everything as much as it can.

I remind the government that while the grain companies, the railroads, the shipping companies and the customers will continue and probably survive for quite some time, it is the farm families and the millions of people who make their livelihood from Canadian exports who will not be able to live up to the standard they should be able to live up to in Canada. Simply because the labour dispute settlement mechanism is antiquated they will not be able to provide their kids with some of the basic pleasures and privileges of life most Canadians enjoy.

I bring the matter to the attention of the House. I ask the government to hear what we are saying and to fix the problem rather than to continue in this makeshift, Mickey Mouse, haywire manner that has been followed for the past number of years.

Canada Labour CodeGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.

Lethbridge Alberta

Reform

Ray Speaker ReformLethbridge

Madam Speaker, I have a brief question with regard to the ongoing discussion. Is there a better solution to the whole question? In terms of the legislation before us, is the new board that is being constructed under the legislation adequate to meet any of the demands of farmers?

Being in the industry myself I recognize that farmers do not have a representative in the process. Is the government putting in place any structure that will pick up the representation required by farmers to protect the industry somewhat and to maintain its viability?

Canada Labour CodeGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.

Reform

Elwin Hermanson Reform Kindersley—Lloydminster, SK

Madam Speaker, I thank the member for Lethbridge for his question. He has very accurately pointed out a problem. As usual farmers have been overlooked in the entire process. The new structure does not put innocent third parties in a position of being involved in creating solutions to the labour disruptions we have seen in the past.

Farmers are the spectators in the whole process. They have always been the spectators. It is a painful sport to watch. They are the ones being hurt. They have no defence mechanisms.

The minister proposed Bill C-66. We are now into third reading stage and it is pretty hard to fix it. The government has missed its opportunity to bring about some constructive solution. It could hear from all the affected parties in the dispute, not just the management and labour sectors. The whole industry may be permanently injured when there is a major disruption in the movement of grain or any other Canadian product to export.

The member is correct in his observation that farmers have been overlooked. It is not unusual for farmers to be overlooked by the Liberal government. It is not for lack of alternatives that have been suggested by the Reform Party.

As I mentioned, the hon. member for Lethbridge put forward a private member's bill that would have resolved the situation. Reform MPs brought forward briefs to the west coast port inquiry that would have brought resolution to the issue. We have also brought constructive amendments to Bill C-66 which would have included farmers' voices as well as those of other innocent third parties. It would give them a role in resolving labour-management disputes. It just has not happened because the Liberals were not prepared to see it happen.

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12:50 p.m.

Reform

Dale Johnston Reform Wetaskiwin, AB

Madam Speaker, has my colleague from Kindersley-Lloydminster noted the portion of the bill that allows for the continuation of service in a strike or lockout situation if there is danger to the public health or safety? How would he feel about the inclusion of detrimental effect or hardship to the Canadian economy?

We have had strikes and lockout situations on the west coast port particularly and in the rail transportation industry that would have had a more devastating impact on the Canadian economy if the participants in the work disruption had not been legislated back to work.

Could my colleague speak on the possibility of the inclusion of detrimental effects on the Canadian economy?

Canada Labour CodeGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.

Reform

Elwin Hermanson Reform Kindersley—Lloydminster, SK

Madam Speaker, I thank the member for Wetaskiwin for his question. He raises a very good point.

When we talk about emergency back to work legislation or essential services we usually think about health care workers like doctors or the police force. If they remove their services we could have chaos, death or serious injury that is unattended to.

We have never really considered the impact of our labour-management resolution process when it comes to industries at risk. We cannot necessarily categorized it as having an impact on public safety, for instance, or as bringing the country's security into question. That is not the case but it is just as real a problem.

The member raised a very real problem which is why I agree with him. Economic issues should be considered when we are discussing and putting forward this type of legislation, in particular where innocent third parties are affected.

If we had good train and port facilities on the four borders of the country and the west coast were on strike, we could go to Mississippi or Churchill or the east coast. We would have other options and we would not need legislation.

That is not the way it works. Almost all our product goes to the west coast or through the St. Lawrence. The greater amount goes through west coast ports. There is no other way. We need to make more ways and we are in favour of making more ways to get our product to port and to our customers. The infrastructure in place is not adequate to allow competition to have its proper role in the marketing and transportation of our goods.

With that restriction upon our industry it is important that we have a resolution mechanism in place to prevent serious economic injury which can almost reach the intensity of being harmful to public safety. We need that resolution mechanism in place in such serious instances as the shutting down of an entire industry through labour disruption.

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12:50 p.m.

Bloc

Francine Lalonde Bloc Mercier, QC

Madam Speaker, it is with a feeling of unfinished business that I take part in this debate, at third reading, on a bill that is so important for Canadian workers. It is also a bill that will have an impact on provincial labour codes. The work remains unfinished because of the incredible speed with which the Standing Committee on Human Resource Development conducted its business, even though a parliamentary committee is supposed to be the place where issues are reviewed and discussed thoroughly.

The minister chose to rely on a working group whose decisions, we are told, were put in a bill hastily thrown together. Then, and with practically no changes made, that bill was referred to the human resource development committee. I should also point out that the government bypassed second reading, preferring to send the bill directly to committee, supposedly to provide more flexibility during the debate, something which we would have loved to see, but which definitely did not happen.

I am making these preliminary remarks because it is extremely unfortunate to have missed this opportunity for an in depth review

of the Canada Labour Code. I can only conclude that it is because here, in Parliament, we pass various types of bills.

Some of the bills we pass, such as those dealing with the budget, will never be challenged in any way. They are a means for the government to codify its decisions. However, when a bill is to become the law for parties, to be interpreted, and might be challenged in court, possibly all the way to the Supreme Court, it should be carefully reviewed.

The parties should be given every opportunity to reach an agreement, to discuss and to express their views, something which was not done. I deeply regret that. Be that as it may, I wanted to make these comments for the record. I hope that Quebec will no longer be represented in this House the next time the Canada Labour Code comes under review. My remarks are valid for any opposition party in a similar situation.

Since my time is short, I will move on to the main concerns I have about this bill. This bill will radically change some of the proven mechanisms we have, for instance, the Canada Labour Relations Board will change name and become the Canada Industrial Relations Board. This indicates that the government wants to change the nature of the board, but in what sense is really not clear, since the first thing we are told about this new Canadian board is that it will be representational.

However, right from the beginning, there seemed to be some confusion about the term "representational". An board is representational when its members actually represent a group or an entity that designated delegates to the board. It represents the groups or entities that appoint delegates.

In this case, the board will be made up of representatives of the employers and workers who will be appointed by the minister, after consultation with groups chosen by the minister himself. These members will represent the workers and the employers, but they will also have to please the minister.

To say that such a board will be representational of the workers and employers is a gross overstatement. It could even have serious consequences in a crisis, because the board really has to be above suspicion.

It must be able to arbitrate this country's most important conflicts, those with the heaviest economic and social impact. First and foremost, it must not be constituted on a false premise, and this bill misuses the word "representative".

I personally was extremely astonished, yet pleased, to hear the CLC representative tell us that the CLC had not been in the least in agreement with the so-called representativeness mechanisms. She shared our point of view totally. There are no representativeness mechanisms, yet representativeness is presented as one of the cornerstones of this bill.

This bill is also intended to prevent recurrence of the problems experienced by the board, which had repercussions right up to the Standing Committee on Human Resources Development, and which paralyzed the board for too long. Unfortunately, the clauses in the code would not prevent a crisis like the one experienced by the Canada Labour Relations Board from recurring.

Conflict between the chairperson and the members was what lay behind that dispute, and the contents of the code address only the behaviour of the members, not that of the chair. The minister has not equipped himself with the means to deal with a crisis like the one experienced by the Canada Labour Relations Board in its last two years of life.

This bill, which is intended to settle conflicts, by creating regulations to govern all aspects from applications for accreditation to initial collective agreements and negotiation of collective agreements when a union is already in place, is characterized by major changes to the body of the code itself.

The purpose of these changes was to update the legislation and expand the ability of the Canada Industrial Relations Board to deal with the problems experienced in the labour world today. However, instead of giving the Canada Labour Code this flexibility and giving the board an instrument it could more readily use to help finalize collective agreements under difficult circumstances, we are seeing a tendency to make the rules of the code as they apply to strikes and lockouts more rigid which, in turn-and far be it from me to call them that-could lead to illegal strikes or lockouts, considering the problems with enforcement.

I will mention the new rules very briefly to show to what extent things are changing. And I have not yet discussed essential services. Unions or companies that wish to strike or announce a lockout will have 60 days to seek and exercise a mandate.

If they fail to exercise their mandate within 60 days, they must go back and seek another mandate. It would seem that instead of promoting dispute settlement, this provision is more likely to have the opposite effect.

Unions covered by the Canada Labour Code are often national unions, and it takes time to organize a vote on a strike mandate. They are not really given much time, because although the very fact of organizing a strike vote may speed up the collective bargaining process, enough time should be allowed for the process to run its course.

So, what we see is that, if at the end of the 60 days, the union and the employer were on the verge of resolving the dispute, but needed more time, they would not succeed in doing so. The union, if it needed the employer's approval first, might well refuse to get into such a situation. Instead of continuing the negotiations, either the union or the employer-because we know that the positions are interchangeable depending on the source of the initiative or the

balance of power-could decide to not run the risk of letting its mandate expire before the end of the negotiations.

Instead of putting all its eggs in the bargaining basket, the union will stop negotiations in order to obtain a new mandate to negotiate. This is a real risk, and I hope it does not produce the effects I foresee. Rather than make things more flexible and help the parties reach a solution, the code restricts the conditions under which a strike may be held.

However, a strike may not be held without 72 hours' notice, in some cases, by the union or the employer. The representatives of the ports unions told the committee that, if the longshoremen in a port along the St. Lawrence gave their employer 72 hours' notice of a strike, no ships would unload in the port affected as they would all go elsewhere. In fact, this provision takes away the right to strike, plain and simple.

Also, this 72-hour notice provision, whereby an employer has to give advance notice of a lockout, could prove so inconvenient that employers will want to declare a lock-out on the spot instead of72 hours later.

It seems to me that anyone who knows anything about labour relations would know better than to impose rules like these, especially as they apply to the private sector as a whole. These rules cannot be enforced. An eight-day notice would at least have provided a degree of flexibility. While neither the union nor the employer has to put its cards on the table, in this case, it is quite the opposite.

Therefore, I doubt very much these provisions are relevant in fostering harmonious labour relations. I now come to the provision on essential services.

Notwithstanding what our colleagues from the third party said, I think this kind of provision on essential services was missing in the Canada Labour Code. I want to reaffirm a universally recognized principle: the right of association, whenever it is granted to workers, entails the right to strike. If there are indications that a strike may jeopardize public safety, workers are then asked to maintain a number of essential services.

Any attempt to prohibit strikes altogether has been a complete failure; the strike takes place even if it is illegal. What every country is seeking to ensure is that, even in case of a labour dispute, public health and safety remains paramount.

So, the provisions on essential services are valid, except those dealing with replacement workers. It seems to me that, even in the case of western grain, they could be an improvement, since it is recognized that workers and employers are required to ensure uninterrupted loading of grain.

As far as the west is concerned, grain movement was raised as the most urgent issue. Unfortunately, it is in the case of western grain that the government had to resort to special legislation. There are two problems with these essential services, a minor one and a major one.

The minor problem is that the board does not have to rule on an agreement reached by the workers and the employer. Other codes, including the Quebec code, provide that even when an agreement is reached, that agreement must still be submitted to the board. What is really much more serious is that, since the code does not prohibit the use of replacement workers, we could find ourselves in the absurd situation where the provisions on essential services would be used, meaning that the employer and the union would be required by the board to meet a set of conditions to ensure public health and safety, with the employer using replacement workers at the same time.

There seems to be a gap in this code and this could create huge problems, instead of settling the issue and ensuring that a conflict, while still a conflict, is kept under better control. We are creating conditions that could have the opposite effect and make the conflict more disruptive for the company, the workers and the employer.

I will conclude by saying that the major flaw in this code is that the use of replacement workers is not prohibited. Unfortunately, these workers are the source of many problems, including violence, in labour relations governed by the Canada Labour Code.

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1:10 p.m.

Lethbridge Alberta

Reform

Ray Speaker ReformLethbridge

Madam Speaker, the hon. member mentioned the grain concerns on the west coast. I appreciate that very much. She indicated that disruptions to that industry should not interrupt the loading of grain and getting it on to the international market.

As the member quite respectfully said, it is an urgent subject in the west. I would like to underline that very much. It is an urgent subject in the west.

It was not a labour problem that stopped grain shipments in January and February this year, it was the railways. They did not deliver the grain. We had interference in the marketplace and farmers in western Canada are now picking up a bill of somewhere between $65 million and $100 million in demurrage charges. This is lost income in the current fiscal crop year.

In this Parliament we have had a labour stoppage on the west coast that cost western farmers $20 million to $30 million. I would like to ask the hon. member a question concerning keeping the respect that we want in terms of the collective bargaining process. How does the farmer as a producer and a shipper into the international market have a say in that bargaining process and at

the same time try to keep the ideal model of a collective bargaining arrangement in place?

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1:15 p.m.

Bloc

Francine Lalonde Bloc Mercier, QC

Madam Speaker, I hope I have understood my colleague's question. When there are unions and employers, the only thing to do is to negotiate. There is no other solution. The provisions in the code with respect to essential services are intended to regulate what happens in times of conflict.

This is still an improvement over the previous code. I remember saying as Bloc Quebecois critic in the rail strike: "If the Canadian economy cannot afford the Canadian Labour Code then change it, but until then, we defend those who abide by the Code".

We are now at the stage of amending the Canada Labour Code, and there is no doubt that this code regulates labour relations between workers and employers. I saw many problems. I do not think these changes improve bargaining rules. I cannot tell you that it contains all the solutions, but there is at least a provision regarding essential services that should change the situation for the west.

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1:15 p.m.

Lethbridge Alberta

Reform

Ray Speaker ReformLethbridge

Madam Speaker, one of the suggestions the Reform Party made to this assembly was the idea of having final position arbitration. The farmer as a producer is not in the loop in the bargaining process, and at least it would give the farmer some security in getting his or her grain to market.

Could the hon. member look at that concept and comment on it or are there other ways that the farmer, the producer, the person who depends on the shipping of the grain into the international market can get into the loop in some way?

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1:15 p.m.

Bloc

Francine Lalonde Bloc Mercier, QC

Madam Speaker, I taught labour relations for many years and final position arbitration never struck me as a means of resolving anything, as a substitute for bargaining, even after one party has made use of its position of strength. I think it is a bit of an illusion, because if this mechanism does not really provide a means of resolving problems and is only the unsatisfactory conclusion of an aborted bargaining process, then the problem will not be resolved.

The problem will manifest itself in another way, legally or not. I understand that this is intellectually satisfying. They say: "We are sure that there will not be a strike because, at the end of the process, we will make the workers choose between the employer's offer and the union's offer". Except that one can think of many situations where this does not resolve the problem. Then you would have a conflict that would not be orderly, a conflict that would explode and would not be subject to the rules set out.

In the end, final position arbitration is an attempt to prevent a strike or a lockout. If this approach were as successful as it is supposed to be or as you claim it is, it would have quickly become widespread, which is not the case. If there were a solution, I would love to know what it is, but there is not.

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1:20 p.m.

Reform

Dale Johnston Reform Wetaskiwin, AB

Madam Speaker, I know the hon. member for Mercier's party would have liked to have seen more definition about the anti-replacement worker legislation.

Are there any instances in which she would suggest that replacement workers could be used without having the union side saying that the use of such workers would undermine the position of the union?

I recognize that the member for Mercier has an extensive background in this area and I would be interested to know on which side of this she would come down. Are there any specific instances in which the member would support replacement workers?

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1:20 p.m.

Bloc

Francine Lalonde Bloc Mercier, QC

Madam Speaker, in the Quebec code-I will refer in my response to a code that exists-as long as a strike is legal, replacement workers cannot be used.

Either labour relations are based on mutual recognition of the rights of the employer and the rights of the workers-and if this recognition is reciprocal, these unionized workers and their employer are responsible for there being a properly controlled relationship, or the rule that applies between labour and management is the law of the jungle. Then might is right, and violence breaks out.

When it comes down to it, these are not choices, but two different types of arrangements. If the desire is for a properly controlled relationship, for unions to be responsible, the unions must be recognized. If they are not, and they are replaced by replacement workers at the first possible chance, with the hope that even the union can be replaced, then there is no possible outcome except disrespect and irresponsible, even violent, attitudes.

To repeat, and for a purpose, when Premier Robert Bourassa regained power in 1985, after the Parti Quebec adopted the 1977 anti-strikebreaker legislation, he told the employers: "Do not try to convince me otherwise; we have social peace in Quebec and that is a valuable commodity".

Indeed, Quebec is the place where you will find what I would call the most responsible management-labour relationships. They work together to develop positions aimed at job creation. It seems to me that this is the type of working relationship that arises out of

mutual respect and recognition. Not that the interests of both sides are always the same, but they are orderly.

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1:20 p.m.

Reform

Leon Benoit Reform Vegreville, AB

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-66. I would like to talk about three main areas in my presentation. First, I would like to talk about the current situation in the grain industry and the problems that farmers are facing because they cannot move their grain from the farm to the coast. These are not new problems, but I want to talk about that a bit.

Second, I would like to talk about why we are in this situation and what changes should have been made by governments that would have made the situation that we are in unlikely to happen.

Then I am going to talk about what Reform has done in this area. I am going to include the amendments that we proposed to this legislation, amendments which unfortunately were not accepted by the government and throughout I will be referring to this bill.

As any member in the House who knows anything about western Canada and the agriculture industry would know, a crisis situation exists once again on the prairies. Grain is not moving. As a result grain is backed up on the farms, bins are full, grain is piled in the fields and spring is coming on. That is a dangerous situation. A lot of spoilage is a possibility.

Farmers are facing the difficulty of purchasing inputs for this year's crop, having sold very little of last year's crop. Although I certainly do not know what sales the wheat board, or others in the case of non-board grains, had lined up, the major reason is that the railways are not moving the grain. Why is that? I am going to talk a bit about that later.

I have had farmers tell me, and I have no reason to doubt what they say, that they will not be able to afford to put in a crop this spring if they do not move some grain and move it quickly. It is bad enough that the projections the wheat board made for the price of wheat are not anywhere near being met. The price of wheat is about two-thirds of what the board estimated, and in some cases lower. In many areas of the prairies the quality is very low, so that has further reduced the price.

Farmers are not going to have nearly the income that they anticipated they were going to have. This is a reality that farmers deal with from year to year. Added to that, even the grain they do have, whether it is low quality or not, is not moving.

This problem keeps coming up again and again. Even since I have been in the House we have had to deal with back to work legislation for grain handlers at the west coast. The second speech I gave was on that subject. I am going to talk a bit about that later.

Farmers and grain companies are captive shippers. They have no economic option for moving their grain other than by rail. I acknowledge there are others in the same situation. Coal, forestry products and potash are in a similar situation of being captive shippers, having no other economically viable options for moving their products.

Through no fault of their own, once again, the livelihood of farmers is being threatened. It is a very serious threat. In my part of the country I believe there will be farmers who will lose their farms as a result of grain not moving. They just will not have the money to purchase inputs for this year's crops. The banks are getting really tight with operating money for farmers who have had problems year after year.

In my part of the province farmers have had a lot of difficulty over the past several years due to drought and due to poorer quality grain than normal. That is the situation.

The situation we are in has led to income instability and uncertainty that their product will get to market so that they have income when they need it. The situation of grain not moving as it should has led to lost sales. This is a long term problem many farmers and I are extremely concerned about. We have had stoppage after stoppage and problem after problem in the system that cause serious economic loss to farmers. Lost sales is one of their biggest losses.

In the 1994 lockout grain was not moving through the west coast. Estimates were presented at that time of the loss in long term markets. The estimates were in the hundreds of millions of dollars of lost sales. There is no way to absolutely determine the value of lost sales and future lost sales, but clearly many of our customers for grains, oilseeds and similar type products are getting tired of Canada being an unreliable shipper. Canada is viewed by many buyers around the world as an unreliable shipper.

Is the problem one of farmers not being able to produce or not producing? No, not even in drought years is that the problem. They can produce enough to meet expected needs. Is it a problem of farmers not getting it into the system, to their local elevators or to an inland terminal or wherever? No, that is not the problem. Farmers will deliver whenever the opportunity is there and often even if the price is not what they think it should be. They know the system does not work well and they had better take advantage of any chance to move grain. That is not the problem.

The problem is the grain movement system from one end to the other, from the local elevator system to the rail system and the

handling system on the west coast or through the lake system. That is the problem and that is where the legislation comes in.

The legislation deals with changes to the labour code. It deals with work stoppages that affect grain shipment, as well as the shipment of other commodities. Unfortunately the small part of the legislation that deals with grain movement directly is not adequate. It is one clause of over 90. I will talk a bit about that later.

Farmers have clearly been put into a situation once again that is not right. It should not be happening again. The problem is caused by grain movement. What will the legislation do to improve grain movement? Maybe this question should be asked: What has past legislation the government has put through done to improve the transportation system? I would argue it has done very little. In some ways the system may not be as good as it was before the changes.

Reform supported, for example, the elimination of the Crow benefit. We had a plan that would help deal with the problems that would result from that elimination. The government ignored the plan but eliminated the Crow.

I do not remember Liberal members across the floor campaigning on eliminating the Crow benefit. I do not remember these members across the floor campaigning on major changes to the Canadian Transportation Act or privatizing CN Rail. I do not remember them campaigning on those things. I never heard it in one single speech because they were not proposing during the election campaign major changes that affect many Canadians.

They made changes and we supported some of them such as getting rid of the Crow benefit. We had a plan to help deal with some of the problems. Certainly the privatization of CN was the thing to do, but there were many problems with the bill.

We argued throughout the whole process about the three major pieces of legislation: the budget implementation bill that eliminated the Crow benefit, the major change to the Canadian Transportation Act, and the privatization of CN. We argued that changes must be made before the legislation passed. We argued for changes that would first make the system competitive and would therefore help to drive costs down.

In grain we argued for changes to the car allocation system. They still have not come. They should have come before any of these changes were made. That was crucial. We pointed this out again and again. It did not happen. We are in a mess.

The government has to start listening to farmers and to us because we are the voice of western Canadian farmers more than any other political party.

We also called for changes that would have given captive shippers like grain farmers some power to deal with a railway that was not performing as it should. That was ignored.

In terms of labour laws specifically we called for changes starting from my second speech in the House on February 8, 1994. I heard the hon. member across the floor say that he wished he had never heard it or something to that effect. I can understand that because the chances of him winning his seat in the next election are very slim. It is because we have been saying these things. It is because we have been proposing these things. Western Canadian farmers know that so I can understand his concern.

On February 8, 1994 we started with my speech on ending the lockout on the west coast. I proposed that we put in place final offer selection arbitration as a way to prevent future disputes from happening. The hon. member for Lethbridge tabled a private member's bill which we debated in the House. Had it passed it would have put in place final offer selection arbitration.

Those changes would have made it so there would be no stoppage in grain movement right from the local elevator to the coast. It would still allow the collective bargaining process to take place. It would allow both things. It was the real solution to the problem. Every time a dispute and a deadline would come up the final offer selection arbitration could be put in place. If the collective bargaining process did not work as it should and so often does with unions and management, the arbitrator could call for the best final offer from both labour and management. The arbitrator could pick either all of one offer or all of the other. There could be very serious offers from labour and from management in this situation. The collective bargaining process could take place right down to the final stage.

It is very effective. It really leads to honest negotiations between labour and management. It would help to end some of the hard feelings built up between labour and management as a result of bad labour legislation. That was the solution we proposed. Had it been in place I am convinced we would not have many of the problems we have had related to labour-management disruptions.

The member for Wetaskiwin is guiding the bill through the House for the Reform Party. He proposed final offer selection arbitration. Our agriculture critic, the member for Kindersley-Lloydminster, also proposed that solution. So far the proposals have fallen on deaf ears. Having heard from labour on the matter, while there is not open arm support for the proposal it is a very weak negative reaction. It knows this is far better than the solution

chosen by the government and by former Conservative governments. Their solution was to let the whole thing collapse, to let the collective bargaining process collapse. Management and labour know that when it collapses Parliament steps in and puts in place back to work legislation. That is their solution to the problem.

Is that allowing the collective bargaining process to take place? I think not. That is not a reasonable way to deal with these problems at all. Yet that is what the government has done. In fact that is what past governments have done for the last 20 or 30 years.

As a young fellow I grew up on a grain farm. We depended on grain and livestock but we depended on grain to quite a large extent for our livelihoods. Time after time during my formative years my father was pacing the floor and was put under unreasonable stress for any bread earner because we could not move our grain. Often it was because of a dispute between management and labour. That should not have happened.

The government says that these issues are issues between management and labour. It is not entirely true that they are the only people who are important in these negotiations. For example, tens of thousands of grain farmers rely on the system working. Management and labour can beat it back and forth and what do they really lose? They will lose some wages and that is difficult for them as breadwinners in the family, I am sure. However what about farmers? They have lost businesses year after year after year. Yet they have no place at the table in these negotiations. They are innocent victims who have no say whatsoever. That has to change.

The final offer selection arbitration will help change that. It is time the government looked to our proposals and avoid partisanship when they are probably the best options that have been presented. These are not only Reform MP solutions. They are solutions from farmers across western Canada and indeed others.

I just had pointed out to me by one of my colleagues that the hecklers across the floor do not rely on the grain handling system for their livelihood. They do not fall under the jurisdiction of the Canadian Wheat Board.

We called for other changes to the Canadian Wheat Board so that farmers would have a choice to ship through the board, through a private grain company or on their own. That would result in competition for the board.

The board can continue its work but if farmers choose they can ship around the board. That too was one of the changes that should have been made before any of the legislation was put before the House. I am talking about legislation that eliminated the Crow benefit and changed the Canadian Transportation Act.

In conclusion, the things I have been saying are important to Canadian farmers and to people in the potash industry, in the forestry industry and in the mining industry who are captive shippers. They are innocent victims who have no place at the bargaining table. They will not be helped one iota by the legislation presented to the House.

The one clause dealing with grain reaching the west coast being put through the system just does not cut it. It is a positive part of the legislation but it does not help its movement from the elevator to the west coast.

Unfortunately I have to say I cannot support the legislation. It is a backward move rather than a forward one. I hope the government sees the error of its ways and brings in final offer selection arbitration as an alternative.

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1:45 p.m.

Saskatoon—Dundurn Saskatchewan

Liberal

Morris Bodnar LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Industry

Madam Speaker, just to remind the hon. member, Saskatchewan is under the Canadian Wheat Board, for his information. Maybe they do not look across the border but we know what the Canadian Wheat Board is. That may be a surprise to him.

He made reference to a strike in 1994 which dealt with the transportation and movement of grain in western Canada, and in Canada generally, and the extremely high cost which resulted, which was in the hundreds of millions of dollars. At that time the cost to the Canadian economy was in the range of $200 million per day as a result of that strike. As a result, the government decided that it was important to sit on Saturday and Sunday to pass back to work legislation to ensure that people got back to work and that less money would be lost to the Canadian economy. That was done and people got back to work.

Perhaps the hon. member can tell us why on the Saturday only 6 Reformers were present and why only 12 or 13 showed up on the Sunday to vote when there was no-

Canada Labour CodeGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

Reform

Jim Gouk Reform Kootenay West—Revelstoke, BC

Madam Speaker, I would call to your attention the words the hon. member is using. If that is in order, as long as we know the rules of the game, we will certainly make reference to their attendance record. It is my understanding that attendance records are not brought up in debate in this House. However, if that is the rule of the Chair, I would be more than happy to play that game.

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1:45 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Ringuette-Maltais)

I have taken into consideration the point of order from the hon. member and I agree that members should not refer to the presence or absence of other members in the House.

Canada Labour CodeGovernment Orders

March 11th, 1997 / 1:45 p.m.

Liberal

Morris Bodnar Liberal Saskatoon—Dundurn, SK

Madam Speaker, I will rephrase the question. With respect to the back to work legislation which required the House of Commons to sit on a Saturday and a Sunday, perhaps the Reform member can indicate how his party showed concern for western Canadian farmers on that particular weekend when we were dealing with that legislation, getting the workers back to work so

that grain could move in western Canada. How did Reformers show any concern on that particular weekend?

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1:45 p.m.

Reform

Leon Benoit Reform Vegreville, AB

Madam Speaker, if the hon. member would check the record he would see that we supported that back to work legislation. I spoke in favour of it, as did many of my colleagues.

For the hon. member to say that back to work legislation is the way to solve these continual disruptions in the grain handling system is asinine. I would like him to go to the rural areas around Saskatoon, where he is from, to tell farmers that back to work legislation is the way to fix the problem. Clearly it is not.

In terms of the House sitting over the weekend, let us end the charade. We know that if the government wants to put any legislation through the House it will put it through. Liberal MPs and opposition MPs could all go home and the Prime Minister and his little group of two, three or four people could continue to make the decisions, as they do now. It would not make one bit of difference. We could all go home.

The only reason for opposition members to be here is to impact public opinion. The hon. member and other government members may as well go home because they are not allowed to speak in opposition to anything the government proposes. Let us end the charade. They can ram this stuff through. They have invoked closure dozens of times in this House in record numbers.

The Prime Minister has let it be known how he looks at democracy. Only 3 Liberal members voted against the gun bill out of the roughly 60 government members who said there constituents wanted them to vote against the gun bill. What was their reward for representing their constituents? They were kicked off their committees. The Prime Minister said publicly after that if any government members in future dare to vote against a piece of government legislation he will not sign their nomination papers and their political careers will be over. That is the kind of democracy this party believes in.

Let us end the charade and start talking in an honest way in this House. If we have different opinions on issues, that is fine. If the Liberals have a different view of democracy, as clearly they do, then that should be expressed. We will continue to express our view of democracy which is giving our constituents real say in what goes on in this place.

Reform has proposed to do that through several mechanisms, for example, right of recall of an MP, the ability to fire an MP. There might have been some who would have been fired had that been in place. Freer votes in the House of Commons would have made it so that a government bill defeated does not necessarily defeat the government. It takes a separate non-confidence motion which passes to defeat the government. Another is the use of referenda on key issues like capital punishment and abortion. That along with a triple E senate would make this country truly democratic. Reform put forth legislation in all of these areas.

The member talks about doing things for constituents. Did he vote in favour of the gun bill? He voted in favour. Did his constituents want him to? They did not.

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NDP

Bill Blaikie NDP Winnipeg—Transcona, MB

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I understood that we were debating the Canada Labour Code. If the Chair can demonstrate to me how the most recent exchange has been relevant to the Canada Labour Code I would be forever indebted.

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The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Ringuette-Maltais)

We have two minutes left in question and comments.

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Reform

Leon Benoit Reform Vegreville, AB

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to explain the connection between a democratic process and this piece of legislation, Bill C-66.

If we had a true democracy in the House, if we had recall, the ability to fire MPs, if we had freer votes in the House of Commons which this government promised and has thrown out, if we had referenda to decide issues like capital punishment and abortion then I suggest that the legislation-

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Liberal

John Bryden Liberal Hamilton—Wentworth, ON

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I would like to ask a relevant question of the hon. member for Vegreville if he would give me that opportunity.

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Reform

Leon Benoit Reform Vegreville, AB

Absolutely, Madam Speaker. Let us have the question and I will give a quick answer.