This week, I changed much of the tech behind this site. If you see anything that looks like a bug, please let me know!

House of Commons Hansard #156 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was offenders.

Topics

Canada Marine ActGovernment Orders

6:45 p.m.

Liberal

Bob Kilger Liberal Stormont—Dundas, ON

Mr. Speaker, I believe there would be unanimous consent to apply the result of the vote just taken to MotionsNos. 33, 35, 44 and 46.

Canada Marine ActGovernment Orders

6:45 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Do we also include Motion No. 22?

Canada Marine ActGovernment Orders

6:45 p.m.

Liberal

Bob Kilger Liberal Stormont—Dundas, ON

Mr. Speaker, the result of the vote also applies to Motion No. 22.

Canada Marine ActGovernment Orders

6:45 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is there unanimous consent?

Canada Marine ActGovernment Orders

6:45 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Canada Marine ActGovernment Orders

6:45 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I declare Motions Nos. 22, 33, 35, and 44 defeated. The next question is on Motion No. 128.

Canada Marine ActGovernment Orders

6:45 p.m.

Liberal

Bob Kilger Liberal Stormont—Dundas, ON

Mr. Speaker, if the House would agree I would propose that you seek unanimous consent that members who voted on the previous motion be recorded as having voted on the motion now before the House, with Liberal members voting yea.

Canada Marine ActGovernment Orders

6:45 p.m.

Bloc

René Laurin Bloc Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, members of the Bloc will vote yes.

Canada Marine ActGovernment Orders

6:45 p.m.

Reform

Chuck Strahl Reform Fraser Valley East, BC

Mr. Speaker, Reform Party members present will vote no on this motion.

Canada Marine ActGovernment Orders

6:45 p.m.

NDP

John Solomon NDP Regina—Lumsden, SK

Mr. Speaker, NDP members in the House this evening will vote no on this motion.

(The House divided on Motion No. 128, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Canada Marine ActGovernment Orders

6:45 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I declare Motion No. 128 carried.

Canada Marine ActGovernment Orders

6:45 p.m.

Victoria B.C.

Liberal

David Anderson LiberalMinister of Transport

moved that the bill, as amended, be concurred in.

Canada Marine ActGovernment Orders

6:45 p.m.

Liberal

Bob Kilger Liberal Stormont—Dundas, ON

Mr. Speaker, if the House would agree I would propose that you seek unanimous consent that members who voted on the previous motion be recorded as having voted on the motion now before the House, with Liberal members voting yea.

Canada Marine ActGovernment Orders

6:45 p.m.

Bloc

René Laurin Bloc Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, members of the Bloc will vote no.

Canada Marine ActGovernment Orders

6:45 p.m.

Reform

Chuck Strahl Reform Fraser Valley East, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for Reform Party members present to vote yes to get this over with.

Canada Marine ActGovernment Orders

6:45 p.m.

NDP

John Solomon NDP Regina—Lumsden, SK

Mr. Speaker, NDP members in the House vote no on this motion.

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Canada Marine ActGovernment Orders

6:45 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I declare the motion carried.

When shall the bill be read a second time? At the next sitting of the House.

Canada Marine ActGovernment Orders

6:45 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The House will now proceed to the consideration of Private Members' Business as listed on today's Order Paper.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

April 15th, 1997 / 6:50 p.m.

Reform

Dale Johnston Reform Wetaskiwin, AB

moved:

That, in the opinion of this House, the government should amend Section 108.1 of the Canada Labour Code to include a provision that would permit employees to vote on any restructuring offer put forward by their employer.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for the unanimous consent of the House to allow me to split my time with the hon. member for Prince George-Peace River.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

6:50 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is there consent for the member to split his time?

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

6:50 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

6:50 p.m.

Reform

Dale Johnston Reform Wetaskiwin, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to move MotionNo. 308 today, which reads as follows:

That, in the opinion of the House, the government should amend Section 108.1 of the Canada Labour Code to include a provision that would permit employees to vote on any restructuring offer put forward by their employer.

This motion came about because of the Canadian Airlines crisis late last year. The House will recall that on November 1 the president of Canadian Airlines International announced that his company would run out of money by the beginning of the year. To save the company and the jobs of 16,000 employees, the company developed a last hope restructuring plan that required $70 million in wage rollbacks from the unions, as well as major concessions from creditors and the American parent, AMR Corporation.

Before the November 26 deadline, four of the six unions agreed to participate in this plan. The holdouts, however, were the Canadian Auto Workers, which represented 3,700 ticket agents, and the Canadian Union of Public Employees, which represented 2,600 flight attendants. The CUPE representative was obviously swayed by CAW's attempt to negotiate a government bailout, so

both refused to allow their membership to vote directly on Benson's plan.

The union members held rallies demanding the right to vote, but their cries fell on the deaf ears of their union bosses, who held out, waiting for the government to come across with moneys and/or concessions.

History has shown that in situations like this the federal government usually comes in like a white knight and offers a taxpayer-funded bailout. This time, having just awarded Bombardier a sweet $87 million interest free loan, the Liberals sensed, and quite rightly so, that there would be no public support for such a bailout.

The president of the CAW and CUPE were not employees of Canadian Airlines so their jobs were not on the line. With no real personal stake in the fate of Canadian Airlines, they were willing to take the risk of the company's bankruptcy and the loss of 16,000 jobs. If the airline collapsed, at least they had served notice to the government that they were ready to play hard ball and this would ultimately benefit future negotiations involving much larger companies in which they represent the unions.

The employees had a democratic right to be heard. Throughout the crisis the Reform Party called on the government to ensure that the democratic rights of the workers were upheld. Time and again government ministers said: "Yes, but the rules do not allow it".

The Reform Party opposes bailouts, but it also opposes inaction. The government did have an option which would not have cost the taxpayers a cent.

The member for Calgary Southwest, the leader of the Reform Party, asked the Minister of Labour on November 28 if the government would "be willing to introduce forthwith an amendment authorizing the Minister of Labour to direct an employee vote on restructuring offers such as that being put forward by Canadian Airlines to its own employees". To this query the labour minister replied: "It is up to management and the unions to decide and find the necessary procedure to have a vote on this matter".

The human resources development committee was meeting that same day to review the government's proposed amendments to the Canada Labour Code known as Bill C-66. I moved a motion in that committee that read: "Due to the critical situation at Canadian Airlines, this committee undertake to enter an immediate review of section 108.1 of the Canada Labour Code to permit employees to vote on any restructuring offer put forth by a company". The motion was defeated by the government MPs on the committee and by their friends in the official opposition. In fact, the parliamentary secretary went so far as to say that even considering giving employees the right to vote on any proposal was in his words "a waste of the committee's time".

This was the opportune time to open the issue for discussion and come up with a permanent solution so that workers would never again find themselves in this predicament. By its actions the government told the 6,300 employees in those two unions, and unionized workers in all federally regulated industries, that their government was not prepared to waste its time ensuring that their democratic rights were upheld.

I believe that there is a fundamental problem with the Canada Labour Code when employees are not given an opportunity to save their own company. Employees deserve that right and the Reform Party stands firmly behind their right to an open, democratic process. The government was not swayed by the Canadian Airlines' employees who pleaded for the right to vote because they needed those jobs and feared that prolonged uncertainty would irreparably damage the company. The government got lucky when the flight attendants came on side.

Now with five of the six unions on side, Canadian Airlines' fate was in the hands of CAW President Buzz Hargrove who steadfastly refused to allow the 3,700 ticket agents to voice their opinion.

Christmas was coming, a spring election was looming and Canadian Airlines was facing imminent disaster. The Government of Canada refused to act until the 11th hour. After telling Canadians for weeks that the rules did not permit government intervention, the Minister of Labour suddenly invoked an obscure clause in the Canada Labour Code to order a vote. This is not a new provision in the Canada Labour Code. It was there all along.

I want to make it clear that what we are advocating is giving employees the right to vote on their futures. We would not want to be so presumptuous as to predict the outcome of such a vote. All Reform asked in this case, and similar situations that are bound to arise in the future, was the assurance that each employee be given the option of voting on restructuring proposals. Did the government initiate action that would benefit all workers? Not at all. It was too afraid to make any meaningful changes. This is yet another quick fix, another one time only solution, more crisis management.

Once again the government proves it lacks vision. The changing workplace is more than just a name of another government task force. It is reality and it is time that the government shed its out of date approach to industrial relations. Workers, employers and union reps all need a level playing field. They all have the right to know where they stand and that they can rely on the Canada Labour Code to promote and protect their democratic rights.

Mr. Speaker, you have often heard me say in the House that the Reform Party recognizes the rights of workers to organize democratically, to bargain collectively and to strike peacefully. We stand by that statement. But what we are also seeking for unionized workers is the right to be counted when there is a restructuring plan on the table that determines whether or not their company stays in business, and ultimately whether they would continue to be employed in that enterprise or seek jobs elsewhere.

Some employees, when faced with the proposition of a company being on shaky financial ground, may say it is time to cut their losses and seek greener and more secure pastures. That should be their decision. It should not be part of a power struggle between union bosses who have little or no personal stake in the outcome.

As it turned out in this case the 2,600 CUPE employees voted in favour of the proposal by 87 per cent. Some 81 per cent of the 3,700 CAW workers voted to accept the company's restructuring plan. At least in the end the decision was the employees to make.

As legislators it is our duty to ensure that all employees who fall under the jurisdiction of the Canada Labour Code are assured this democratic right.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

7 p.m.

Reform

Jay Hill Reform Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to rise this evening to briefly address Motion No. 308 in the name of my hon. colleague from Wetaskiwin which states:

That, in the opinion of this House, the government should amend section 108.1 of the Canada Labour Code to include a provision that would permit employees to vote on any restructuring offer put forward by their employer.

This is a very worthwhile motion. If it leads to the necessary amendment and is passed, it would certainly be a step in the right direction of ensuring that democracy truly rules in all corporations that are restructuring.

It is a privilege for me to set the record straight. One thing of concern to a number of Reform members and Reform supporters across the land was the virtual exclusion by the national media of Reform bringing forward the issue when the Canadian Airlines story was foremost in the media and in the minds of many people early in the winter.

If we were to check Hansard we would see a series of questions, statements and speeches were made in this place on behalf of Canadian Airlines employees by Reform members of Parliament. We led the story in the House of Commons day after day. However, because the national media did not pick up on our involvement in the story, we were continuously asked why we were ignoring it when in fact we were not.

I thank my hon. colleague from Wetaskiwin for putting forward the motion. It allows me to briefly set the record straight.

As the member so eloquently outlined during his remarks, two primary issues prompted him to bring forward the motion. The first was the fundamental issue of a level playing field. We were the first voices to push for the removal of the federal fuel tax on aviation fuels. This would allow Canadian Airlines and all other Canadian air carriers to compete internationally on a level playing field with their foreign competitors. I certainly give credit to my hon. colleague from Kootenay West-Revelstoke for pushing that in the House of Commons before anyone else had brought the issue to the forefront.

The primary focus of the motion is to ensure all Canadian employees of companies and corporations have the opportunity to vote when the future of the company and thus the existence of their jobs are at stake. As my hon. colleague from Wetaskiwin stated so well, we have to ensure that true democracy is paramount.

That brings us to the whole issue of democratic reform. In the few minutes I have left I would like to speak to the need for democratic reform, a fundamental issue that attracted me to the Reform Party of Canada.

If there is anyone who knows how badly we are in need of democratic reform, it is the MPs who speak on a daily basis, not just Reform ones. We hear cries for democratic reform and true free votes in the House of Commons from other political parties.

I am reminded of what led us to this point. A couple of members of the Conservative Party were trying to accurately represent their constituents on an issue as important as the GST. They were thrown out of the Progressive Conservative Party.

I well remember as a farmer watching the news on a farm outside Fort St. John and seeing the arrogance of then Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, a political leader whom we had the good fortune or otherwise to witness yesterday on national television. He was bragging to Canadian people that he had thrown those two backbench members out of his party because they dared to vote against his party. I thought there should have been a rising sentiment from the Canadian public expressing that it had simply had enough. Recently we saw the same thing happen with the Liberal Party when the member for York South-Weston voted against that party.

There is a fundamental need for democratic reform, for true free votes in this place. There is a need for recall of members who do not accurately represent their constituents.

Private member's Bill C-210 of my hon. colleague from Beaver River would accomplish that if it were supported by the government side of the House. The old parties are resistant to these types of democratic changes, although I hasten to add not all of their members are. Many members recognize a growing awareness among the public of a need for democratic reform of government institutions.

The Reform Party and I have pushed for referendums on subjects such as capital punishment. We will continue to expound upon the use of referendums, national binding referendums for Canadian people to direct this place to enact laws supported by the majority.

I would be remiss in the minute or so remaining if I did not speak about a certain democratic reform that has been part of the Reform Party's blue book of policies and principles from the very beginning, the support of Reformers of fixed election dates.

The people of Canada will have the opportunity to voice their concern about that plank and a host of others as we move into the federal election that is expected to be called as early as 11 days from now. I suspect Canadians will be well aware of that plank in our platform. We believe there should be four-year terms so that everyone knows when an election will be called.

Those are some of the democratic changes the Reform Party of Canada and I support. We are looking forward to the next campaign, as we have the last two campaigns, to present to Canadian voters a clear alternative for democratic renewal and democratic reform of government institutions.

I would be remiss if I did not mention the other place and the need for a triple E Senate. Unlike some parties we do not believe in the abolition of the upper chamber. We believe in reforming it to be a true triple E Senate: elected, equal and effective.

I will close by saying that I support my hon. colleague for Wetaskiwin in bringing forward Motion No. 308. It gave me the opportunity to speak briefly about the need for democratic reforms not only of the Canada Labour Code but of many other things.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

7:10 p.m.

Bloc

Stéphan Tremblay Bloc Lac-Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, first of all, I would like to say that when I was nominated recently in my riding, between 130 and 135 people came to the meeting. I would like to start by thanking these people who may be listening at home. It was March 25, which happened to be the first anniversary of my election win last year.

This year has been filled with a lot of emotion, a lot of experience and a lot of learning. As I look back, I think I can be satisfied with this first year. I think the record for the first year is positive. From the outset, learning the ropes was not easy, but I managed to adjust. I even initiated a number of projects in my riding and I am pleased with the results. I hope I have a chance to keep working on these projects.

As I said, since I entered politics, I often saw things that were rather extraordinary. This afternoon I was listening to the whip for the Reform Party who said that the third party option was probably the one with the best prospects, in that it was more attractive to the rest of Canada and Quebec.

When I look at the motion presented by the Reform Party today, I am afraid I do not quite agree. Clearly, the Reform Party is on the far right, while we tend to be more to the left or the centre.

In any case, let me explain this motion on labour disputes. We are of course against the motion, and I will tell you why. If I may summarize the motion, basically it concerns the unions, labour disputes and relations between employers and the unions.

Unions were originally formed by groups of employees who got together to fight for better working conditions and to have more clout when facing their employer. That is pretty clear.

The motion by the Reform Party suggests that in certain labour disputes the Minister of Labour would have his say, this in any dispute where we have the employer's position on one side and the employees' position on the other side, represented by the unions. In many cases these labour disputes can go on for some time. And that is because there is a disagreement.

In this motion, the Reform Party suggests giving more power to the minister to intervene in any labour dispute across the country. He could come and give his opinion and tell the parties to stop. To the extent that employees would be able to vote in favour of an agreement without going through the unions.

We believe strongly that the minister's powers must not be increased, but rather decreased. The debate of a few years ago gave rise to the Sims' report. I will read a few extracts.

On page 167, the Sims report discusses the administration of the Canada Labour Code. It provides, and I quote: "Management and labour run labour relations, not government".

The authors of the report continue a few pages along with the recommendation that: "The Minister's current powers under sections 57(5), 59, 71, 72 to 82, 105 and 108.1(1) should be vested with (or amenable to delegation to) the Head of the FMCS". This is completely contrary to today's motion.

Secondly, the report recommends: "The section 97(3) requirement for Ministerial consent to file complaints to the Board should be repealed".

We must remember that, after people were brought together to consider the situation, they concluded that the minister should have fewer powers. Today, however, the Reform motion is proposing to give the minister more power. It is like putting a bandaid on a sore. Could you listen, please.

The Reform Party has a lot of supporters in western Canada. We will recall the recent labour dispute between the employees and management of Canadian airlines. There were a number of unions in Canadian, including one that turned a deaf ear to management proposals. That extended the dispute, because the unions representing the employees thought that was the best thing to do.

So the Reform Party, a party of the right, hoping perhaps to come up with some votes, is proposing the motion we are considering this evening.

Furthermore, this motion is pro-management, because the minister could always go over the heads of the unions to find out and interpret for himself the intent of a firm's employees.

So the unions' powers are being cut, and, what is more, they are saying the minister should have the power to circumvent the powers of the union. Yet these unions were born of a need. Today they are saying there is no longer a need.

So even though this motion is not votable, we oppose it, as the bias in favour of the employers is too strong. I have nothing against them and I also do not want to favour unions over management. I am trying to favour a good relationship between the parties, but this evening's motion smells too much like an election ploy. However, we will see what our colleagues have to say.

That concludes my remarks on motion M-308.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

7:15 p.m.

Hillsborough P.E.I.

Liberal

George Proud LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Labour

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to address the motion put forward by the member for Wetaskiwin.

Canadians have many things of which to be proud and our labour relations history is just one of those things. In my short time as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Labour I have seen many aspects of our labour relations that are truly quite impressive.

We have achieved a system that balances the rights of workers and employers and that recognizes both the importance of labour and the right of management to conduct business.

Keeping this balance takes adjustment as times and needs change. That is what the government is doing. Last week, with no thanks to the third party, of course, Bill C-66 passed third reading. The amendments contained in Bill C-66 will improve the Canada Labour Code far more than what my colleague opposite is proposing in his motion.

I will be talking about those shortly, but first I want to address Motion No. 308 and explain why something that sounds so sensible at face value in fact threatens the very delicate balance on which Canada's industrial stability is based. Motion No. 308 proposes that employees be permitted to vote on any restructuring offer put forward by the employer.

Technically, of course, they already have that right. A union can always present a restructuring offer to its members. What the member for Wetaskiwin seems to find objectionable is that this vote is called by the union rather than by some other body.

He may mean from the literal words of the motion, that even non-unionized employees will have the right to reject restructuring packages. We must presume that Motion No. 308 is meant to encourage governments to over-ride unions and bring restructuring packages to a vote no matter how much the union may object to the package.

In last December's crisis at Canadian Airlines, this may have seemed like a power that government needs. However, as the minister showed, there already exists a similar power. Granted, it is not as high-handed as what we are presented with here today but in fact the Canada Labour Code has several provisions that already allow the Minister of Labour to intervene in exceptional circumstances. Under section 105, the minister can appoint a mediator. Under section 106, the minister can order an inquiry. Under section 107, the minister can secure industrial peace by referring a question to the Canada Labour Relations Board.

Last December, five of the six unions representing Canadian International employees decided to accept a restructuring offer put forward by the employer.

The sixth union, the Canadian Auto Workers, was not in agreement and, for a few tense days, there was fear that their opposition would cost 16,000 workers their jobs.

Members of the House may remember that it was section 107 in Part I of the code that the Minister of Labour invoked but later withdrew when the Canadian Auto Workers and Canadian Airlines reached a deal. It just goes to show that even in those exceptional circumstances, dramatic measures like these may not be necessary.

Muddying the collective bargaining waters with arbitrary government actions jeopardizes the very stability of the system we should prize. Used too often, it says that a collective agreement, a signed agreement made by both sides in good faith, is worthless if

a company can convince the Minister of Labour that it should be over-ridden.

Such an atmosphere would certainly be corrosive for labour peace. If a company could freely ignore a union and, in effect, renegotiate terms with individual workers, then we have made a mockery of the collective bargaining system.

We have created a situation where powerful companies can threaten workers with lay-offs, where they can scare workers into shredding the agreement their unions bargained very hard for. If the bargaining agent is no longer the exclusive bargaining authority, if the union duly elected by workers is no longer allowed to represent those workers, then we have put an end to a system that has worked so well for so long.

I am sure that the hon. member across the way would not want to see that happen. Moreover, we have added the complication by mixing apples and oranges. Section 108(1) talks about unions being asked to take an employer's final offer back to union members. That is a powerful tool already, but today's motion would drastically increase that power by tossing in the unrelated question of restructuring packages. Surely it belongs in an act dealing with restructuring rather than in an act dealing with collective bargaining.

Just how exactly does the hon. member propose to define restructuring proposals? Will it be a sincere attempt to reorganize the company's structure and function or is it simply a way to claw back wages and benefits gained through collective bargaining?

That is not to suggest in any way that the Canada Labour Code is perfect. Unfortunately, very few things in this world are so. However, Bill C-66 will improve and modernize the Canada Labour Code so that it continues to ensure stability, fairness and balance.

Bill C-66 is heavily influenced, as was said earlier, by the Sims task force. The Sims task force travelled the country, listening to the best ideas from labour, business and other interested parties.

When the subject of section 108.1 came up, all unions wanted it repealed. Employers wanted it modified to require a last offer vote on the employees' request. As the title of the Sims report says, it was seeking a balance. It saw no convincing evidence to change section 108.1 either way. What the task force did do was to suggest a broad range of amendments which would greatly improve and modernize the Canada Labour Code.

Time does not allow me to go into Bill C-66 in any detail, so I will simply pick one aspect of it. Bill C-66 speeds up the bargaining cycle, improves flexibility and allows disputes to be settled more quickly. It does this by extending the notice to bargain period.

Bill C-66 also replaces the two-stage conciliation process with a single 60-day stage.

The code will now expressly recognize the right of parties to agree to submit collective bargaining disputes to any kind of binding settlement.

There is much more to Bill C-66, but I have given the House a taste of how carefully considered amendments can do more good than the single heedless motion we have today.

I urge the House to soundly reject Motion No. 308. The motion would tilt the balance of power too far toward one side of the collective bargaining equation. It would encourage the reckless use of a provision of the code that should be and has been rarely used. It is in sum a hasty reaction to a problem that Canada simply does not have.

Just as the CAW and Canadian Airlines resolved their differences, a stable labour environment encourages even the bitterest of opponents to trust each other's word.

Canada's labour relations environment is too valuable to toss away for the sake of a quick political point.