House of Commons Hansard #74 of the 36th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was banks.


The House resumed from December 4, 1997, consideration of the motion.

Toy LabellingPrivate Members' Business

11 a.m.


Roger Gallaway Liberal Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Madam Speaker, it is my pleasure to speak to Motion No. 85 which calls on the government to enact legislation which would, among other things, mandate toy manufacturers to label toys containing a substance called phthalates in order to allow parents to make an informed decision when buying products for their children.

The really important word in all this is informed. Informed means that when you arrive at a conclusion all the facts have been before you. Based on those facts you decide what is in your best interests. What this motion is suggesting is that we are going to short circuit that process and we, in this House, are going proceed to determine what is in the best interests by requiring that toys be labelled.

What is the evidence before us. The evidence is that a group called Greenpeace has said that phthalates in toys, when children chew or suck on them, somehow enter into their bodies and this is unsafe. Greenpeace bases that on a couple of scientific studies, one of which came from a Dutch group and the other from a Danish group. The problem is these studies are now being refuted. The Danish environmental protection agency in April 1997 recommended that certain types of teething rings be withdrawn from the market. In July 1997 the Dutch health ministry suggested to toy retailers that they should withdraw some soft vinyl toys from the market. Those recommendations were made after a meeting with Greenpeace.

What has happened since that time is the results of the Dutch study cannot be duplicated. They did some kind of scientific study. When they tried to come up with the same conclusions on the same data a second time, they could not. In the case of the Danish study, any scientist who has looked at the methodology used has said that this is not a study at all but a conclusion reached on certain data given. In terms of scientific methodology is is not acceptable. No scientist could form a conclusion based on the kind of evidence that was being used.

It really is not germane to us in this House if in Denmark or in Holland governments have been pressured by groups such as Greenpeace to make a move based on evidence that is not sound, that is not scientific, that is not replicable, that is not acceptable. That is a decision made in those countries.

Let us remember that in Europe there is something called the European Union which makes rules with respect to a number of issues on a regional basis. It makes it for those member countries. As recently as February 17, almost a month ago, the European Union's scientific committee looked at the evidence that was provided by Denmark. It looked at the evidence that was supplied by Holland. It looked at the evidence supplied by Greenpeace.

It said it could not make a decision. There was not enough evidence. There is no science in any of this. This is a group of experts. This is a group of people who make objective, dispassionate, scientific decisions. They said they could not make a decision. They also pointed out in their decision that there was no urgency in any of this.

We would ask why is there no urgency if, as is being suggested by Greenpeace, this is affecting the health of children. The answer is that phthalates are the most widely researched chemical polymer going. Manufacturers in this country do not include on purpose components in toys or in their goods that are in some way going to affect or harm the lives of children. There is some suggestion that this is a direct attempt or that they are being reckless. That is not the case.

On February 6, 1998 Health Canada had a meeting with representatives of the industry to discuss this matter because the industry was concerned about the allegations being made by members opposite. The industry met with Health Canada and said it was responsible and that it wanted to deal with it. In that meeting, Health Canada agreed to take a lead in this matter.

I suggest to all members present that if Health Canada is to compile a group of scientists to examine and study this in order to reach a conclusion it would be terribly premature for us in this place, acting on a hunch from Denmark, Holland and Greenpeace, to come to the conclusion that parents are going to make an informed decision because we are going to require manufacturers to stick a label on toys which states the product contains phthalates.

There is a community of scientists within the government supported by the industry that is going to look at and analyse the data and reach a conclusion.

The industry has gone one step further and has said it is happy with the process. It is glad that some independent third party is going to come in and look at it. The industry will support the protocol as established, will support Health Canada and will, most important, support any conclusions reached by Health Canada in this respect.

We have a duty and an obligation in this place that when we start passing motions or enacting legislation with a scientific basis, where we can look for a cause and an effect, that we have the scientific data and all the evidence before us that will allow us to draw that correlation.

If we are to start reaching conclusions we need some type of scientific evidence that allows us to go from point A to point Z, being the conclusion.

What we are being asked to do by this motion is to go from point A to point Z but we do not know why. It is based on a hunch, a suspicion and it is being driven by a group that has no evidence but still wants to propel this matter because it thinks it is in some sort of environmental interest.

In the end I think this motion must, as a result, be defeated. The only thing we are going to end up doing is creating a problem in the minds of parents because there will be the suggestion that when they buy a toy there is something wrong or something in this toy that may, according to the proponents of this motion, be harmful. However, the only evidence, I suggest, is the direct opposite. There is no evidence that will lead us to this conclusion.

It is for that reason that I would ask members of this House that when this is voted on to vote against it and defeat it.

Toy LabellingPrivate Members' Business

11:10 a.m.


Maud Debien Bloc Laval East, QC

Madam Speaker, today we are resuming debate on Motion M-85 by our New Democratic colleague from Acadie-Bathurst. It calls upon the government to:

—enact legislation mandating toy manufacturers to label toys containing phthalates in order to allow parents to make an informed decision when buying products for their children.

The Bloc Quebecois and all of the other parties in the House support this motion, unlike the Liberal government, which has refused to do so until now. Moreover, my colleague from Sarnia—Lambton, who has just spoken, has given us one more example of how out of it his government is.

Most of us here are parents or grandparents. As parliamentarians, we are, or should be, abreast of the latest developments, but how many of us know what serious health hazards phthalates represent for our children and grandchildren? I congratulate and thank the hon. member for Acadie—Bathurst for raising this matter.

If this motion is passed, parents will be able to tell whether plastic toys contain phthalates. And what are phthalates? They are chemical agents containing lead or cadmium, which are added during the manufacture of plastic toys to make them softer or more malleable. These substances are also found in a number of products made of vinyl or polyvinyl chloride, commonly called PVCs.

If we make a brief list of the commonplace items we have in our homes, we shall see that PVCs are common in consumer products such as plastic tableware, food packaging, furniture, floor coverings, plastic bottles, backpacks, even rainwear. What worries me even more, however, is the frequent use of phthalates in the manufacture of toys and products for infants, such as nipples and pacifiers, teething rings, and other soft objects specifically intended to be mouthed by infants and toddlers.

The danger to health lies in the fact that the phthalates do not bind with the PVC or vinyl, which constitute the basic material of the toys. They remain freely mobile and can separate themselves from the PVCs. What happens when a child exerts pressure on a toy, when he sucks or bites on a teething ring? It is simple; he could directly ingest phthalates.

Some of the soft PVC toys tested by Greenpeace contained up to 40% of their weight in phthalates. Yet, there is no mention of, warning about or label indicating the presence of hazardous substances. Should we not err on the side of safety instead of taking chances with the health of children?

It has been shown that prolonged exposure to phthalates can cause cancer, liver and kidney damage, and even infertility. It is very strange that, in Canada, such substances are labelled as harmful when shipped in barrels but considered harmless, and even safe for eating, when used to make toys. That is a paradox, which must be denounced.

A more recent study revealed that this substance might also imitate, although slightly, oestrogen, an hormone which plays an important role in regulating development and metabolism. Finally, lead, which is one of the ingredients in phthalates, is often found in PVC. Lead poisoning is widely recognized as one of the most serious threats to children's health. Exposure to even extremely low doses causes permanent damage to the nervous system. Let us not forget that young, growing children are particularly vulnerable to the harmful effects of these substances. In many cases, the harm caused is irreversible.

In fact, European countries like Denmark, Austria, Belgium and the Netherlands have warned the public against the risks of playing regularly with these toys. Certain major toy store chains have decided to take certain toys off the market. In addition, Denmark and the Netherlands have banned the use of phthalates in all plastics and, of course, in toys.

The Liberal government is dragging its feet on this issue, Health Canada having decided not to take PVC plastic toys off the market in spite of the fact that a study commissioned by the department showed that lead concentrations were considerably higher than they should normally be.

Can you believe that, out of the 24 products tested by the department, 17 exceeded a level of 200 parts per million, even though the Canadian standard, which is one of the most stringent in North America, is 15 parts per million?

But the department refuses to regulate toys. Yet, it recognizes that lead is a neurotoxin that can cause irreversible and permanent damage to the brain, even when a person is only exposed to small doses. Again, there is a flagrant contradiction.

Lead is regulated, but only for paintings, ceramics, glass and artists' pencils and brushes. Nowhere is there mention of the lead that can be found in toys.

I believe Health Canada is trying to downplay the dangers posed by lead, considering that the levels of lead detected in certain toys during the study can cause irreversible neurological disorders in children.

In order to reassure the public, the department released the results of a risk analysis. However, it is recognized within the scientific community that a risk analysis is based on an approximate exposure to chemical products, so as to draw some conclusions. According to experts, this method can be highly inaccurate in assessing actual risk.

In fact, Dr. Richard Maas of the Environmental Quality Institute, at the University of North Carolina, said that the methodology of this extremely superficial study was clearly biased to arrive at a negative conclusion about the risk involved.

Instead of legislating, the department is proposing the implementation, on a strictly voluntary basis, of its strategy to reduce the levels of lead in products for children and other consumer products, which will come into effect in the year 2001. This strategy relies solely on the industry's good will. The government did not provide any incentive to protect children.

Of course, the best way to avoid any risks related to the ingestion of phthalates would be to eliminate PVCs in all malleable toys. However, this is not the purpose of the motion before us, which only asks the government to enact legislation mandating manufacturers to label toys. This would allow parents to make an informed decision when buying products for their children.

We cannot oppose a preventive measure. We cannot refuse to provide information. To my knowledge, phthalates have always been considered a toxic, carcinogenic substance under the Canadian Environmental Health Protection Act.

The Liberal government is once again sitting back and letting things happen. Yet, it said, in its throne speech, that “the experiences of Canada's children, especially in the early years, influence their health, their well-being, and their ability to learn and adapt throughout their entire lives”.

This motion is asking the government to be proactive. It is a government's role and duty in the area of public health. Will the government wait until tragedies occur before taking action?

Toy LabellingPrivate Members' Business

11:20 a.m.


Angela Vautour NDP Beauséjour—Petitcodiac, NB

Madam Speaker, I am pleased today to speak to the motion introduced by my colleague, the member for Acadie—Bathurst. I think it is a sensible motion that should be taken seriously. Its purpose is to protect our children's health against chemical agents in certain toys.

Phthalates are chemical agents put in plastics to soften them. These very widespread agents are present in plastic lids, cellophane paper and children's toys. Studies have shown that these materials can cause cancer, damage the liver and lead to infertility.

Growing children are more susceptible to these harmful effects. Phthalates are released from toys and ingested into children's systems. Even more alarming, phthalates are released from common toys such as pacifiers and other soft toys that children put in their mouths.

I have a two-year-old daughter and this situation frightens me. It is something that should be taken seriously. It is infuriating that the Liberal Party does not consider this a serious matter. I should not say the whole party, because we have been informed that a number of Liberal members support this motion, but it remains to be seen whether or not they will really support it when it comes to a vote.

We know that new European studies resulted in store chains in Denmark, the Netherlands, Sweden, Argentina, Spain, Belgium, Germany and Italy taking a great number of toys containing phthalates off the market. This is a matter of protecting our children, as well as a consumer-rights issue.

In Canada right now, parents who are concerned about this issue have no way of knowing whether the toys they are buying contain these chemical agents. As lawmakers, we must take a stand on these issues that have not already been debated in Parliament, particularly when it is a question of protecting our children's interests and health.

It is also a question of raising public awareness. This is a very serious matter, when one considers that any young child has plastic toys he puts in his mouth. I cannot stress enough that we are talking about our children and grandchildren.

All that we are asking is for these objects to be identified so that parents may decide whether or not to buy them. We are not asking for them to be pulled off the shelves. We are asking for a study to be carried out and for there to be labelling in the meantime. Some countries have already withdrawn them. We are not imagining things. This is real. It has happened, regardless of what any hon. member may say to the contrary. What has already happened cannot be changed.

This motion is all the more important because of its proactive nature in preventing long-term health problems. Prevention is important because it will protect our children from liver disease, cancer and infertility. It will also impact upon the future costs to our health system. If we can prevent devastating and costly diseases such as cancer now, our already overburdened health system will benefit.

This is not the only instance where this is happening. Many decisions being taken across this country are very costly to our health system. We are making people ill. We are not giving proper care to our people in hospitals. We are shipping them back home before they are ready, and they end up costing the system more as a result. Some in this country end up paying a still higher price, as needless deaths occur.

All we are asking here is for these items to be labelled so that parents can decide whether or not to purchase them. I think what we are asking is very reasonable. There are some doubts being expressed about these products presenting a problem, that they are making our children sick. I cannot imagine that this House cannot reach agreement on such an important matter.

We are asking for assurance that our children will not fall ill as a result of our buying products that are not identified in the stores. It is a sad thing that the Liberals are playing politics at the expense of our children's well-being. This is unacceptable.

We are not asking for the moon and the stars, here. We are just asking for a little label on products that make our children sick. One might well wonder which companies with certain political affiliations are going to be hurt by this labelling requirement. A stop must be put to this. People must come first, ahead of scoring political points, when such important issues are at stake.

I stand today speaking on behalf of this motion. This is something that is very dear to my heart. I have children at home. I have a two year old that puts everything she can find in her mouth and here we are talking about substances that can make her extremely ill. All we are asking is to identify those products.

I could go out there today and buy those products. I do not know which ones they are. We are asking to protect our children, not asking for the moon or the stars. We are asking to keep our young children healthy. That is all we are asking.

Toy LabellingPrivate Members' Business

11:30 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Jim Jones Progressive Conservative Markham, ON

Madam Speaker, today I rise to speak to the motion by the member for Acadia—Bathurst. It reads as follows:

That, in the opinion of this House, the government should enact legislation mandating toy manufacturers to label toys containing phthalates in order to allow parents to make an informed decision when buying products for their children.

This motion was introduced following Greenpeace's allegation about additives in vinyl toys. They alleged that phthalate esters, a common family of chemical products, represented danger to children. However, they have been used safely for over 40 years in toys as well as health sensitive applications. These include blood bags, catheters, IV tubing and surgical gloves.

As they are used in a wide range of products, no other plasticizer has been subject to the same level of scrutiny and testing.

Last fall Health Canada released a report conducted by the product safety bureau, Environmental Health Directorate, that concluded that the lead and cadmium present in these vinyl consumer products does not pose any significant risk to children.

Health Canada has undertaken a risk assessment of phthalates and will be releasing the results later this spring. It is in the best interests of parents and children to wait for Health Canada's risk assessment. The decision to label toys should be based upon sound science.

At present there is no scientifically validated evidence that show DINP is presently posing a health risk. The significance of labelling could be seriously undermined as a responsible way to inform parents about toy content.

Our party respects and expects the health safety of our children to be foremost when buying products. We must be sure that there is a clear and very present risk to warrant labelling. However, our party will be the first to approve appropriate labelling should the scientific and regulatory agency state that this chemical family presence presents any sort of risk.

The recent Danish studies cited by Greenpeace have been discredited; one, for producing unrepeatable results and the other for false methodology. Standards must, however, be put in place by Health Canada's product safety bureau. There needs to be a regulatory standard for intake just as the European Union has already taken the authority to put in place a maximum daily intake of DINP.

We cannot support this motion until the necessary scientific protocols have been established and Health Canada has in place regulatory powers under Health Canada's product safety bureau.

Toy LabellingPrivate Members' Business

11:30 a.m.


Lynn Myers Liberal Waterloo—Wellington, ON

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to address the House on this motion dealing today with potential health and safety issues for children.

In light of the general concern over any potential threats to children's health, and that is a concern shared by all Canadians, and our common interest to see that appropriate measures be taken to address these threats, I want to use my time in this debate to highlight some of the more effective means the government is currently employing to protect the health and safety of Canada's children.

Two of the most effective tools at the government's disposal are the Hazardous Products Act and the hazardous products toys regulations which are both administered by the Products Safety Bureau of Health Canada.

Under the legislation, certain toys are banned from sale and other toys can be marketed only if they meet specific safety requirements. It should be noted it is the responsibility of manufacturers and importers to ensure that products comply with the regulations of the act and regulations before they are imported or marketed into Canada.

Product safety officers routinely monitor the marketplace and take appropriate enforcement action on any toys that contravene that legislation.

The mission of Health Canada's product safety bureau is to prevent product related deaths and injuries. Legislation, safety standards and consumer information are elements of the bureau's activities to ensure safer products for children and to promote their safe use.

These activities dovetail with the department's national information and education program. Child safety and injury prevention in the use of consumer products is one of the major programs and major goals of that particular area. I can say that as a former educator with the Waterloo County Board of Education I certainly understood fully the kinds of goals that were to be achieved by that particular educational program.

The federal government will continue to look after the interests of all Canadians.

Unfortunately, no matter how much safety is built into a product, children continue to die or suffer injuries from improper use of products.

The direct aim of Health Canada's information and education program is to reduce that number of accidental deaths and injuries to children in Canada. The program reaches out to children, parents, caregivers, day care centres and schools with useful safety information such as safety awareness campaigns, posters, pamphlets and videos.

Within Health Canada the health protection branch works to eliminate health risks associated with the natural and man-made environments that can lead to illness or death.

Its principal responsibilities involves assessment and control of the nutrition, quality and safety of food; the safety and effectiveness of drugs, cosmetics, medical devices, radiation-emitting devices and other consumer products; the identification and assessment of environmental hazards; the surveillance, prevention and control of diseases and the provision of specialized laboratory services such as those used in the testing and assessment of plastic products containing potentially hazardous phthalates.

It is important to point out, contrary to what has been said in this House this morning, that phthalates do in fact bind to PVC. There is no evidence that long term exposure to DINP causes concern and liver damage. There simply is no proof in that regard. It is a groundless assertion.

I also want to point out with respect to lead that 15 parts per million referred to for lead is not a government standard. It is a proposed strategy. In fact, the lead strategy is still being reviewed and under consultation with the stakeholders and indeed the focus groups are meeting next week across Canada with respect to that very important issue.

One of the common threads which bind these various programs together in the health protection branch is the government's concern for the health and safety of Canadian children. Health and safety is paramount, it is important and is something with which we are very concerned.

This concern is shared with parents and care givers, public health workers, manufacturers and retailers across Canada. By pooling existing resources, knowledge and expertise and by working with those partners across society, the government is indeed taking effective ongoing measures to address potential health threats to Canada's children. It is important that we continue in that vein and do the right thing for all our children, and for all Canadians.

Toy LabellingPrivate Members' Business

11:35 a.m.


Ken Epp Reform Elk Island, AB

Madam Speaker, I am indeed happy to be able to enter into the debate on what I think has become an important bill because of some important principles involved.

When I was doing my research for this, I had an analogy which came to mind. I remember many years ago driving on an Alberta highway. At one place there was a corner and a sign which said you must slow down. I forget what the speed was but it was in the old days when we had miles per hour. It said slow down to 35 and so I did. I realized that was an incredibly slow speed. It was not an accurate evaluation of a safe speed to travel that road.

Over time, travelling that same road, I just kept my usual speed of 60 miles an hour and I could do it in total safety even though there was this little yellow information sign that said I should for safety reasons slow down to 35. It was unrealistic.

Unfortunately, there is a sign on an exit which leads to the road where I live. It indicates that the maximum speed is 80 kilometres per hour. Drivers come off the 100 kilometre per hour freeway on to the exit which is at 80 kilometres. However, if drivers take that corner at more than 40 kilometres they wind up with their wheels in the air. The sign is not meaningful.

In one case the sign says “Go slow, but you do not have to”. In the other case the sign says “Go 80”, but it should be slower. If the driver does not make the adjustment when he or she actually sees the turn of the exit, it will not be a safe exit.

That principle applies to this bill. This bill asks for the labelling of a product. That label had better be accurate. There are a couple of reasons for that.

If the label says “This is a dangerous product” when in fact it is not, that has two important implications. One is that it is an unnecessary cost. It is an economic handicap to the companies which manufacture the product. The second is that it makes the consumers immune to the warning, just like the sign which said I should drive slower than was really necessary.

If the label on the product says “This is a dangerous product” when it fact it is not, it is like crying wolf. It means that people will not respond when they see a label which in fact should be a legitimate warning. That is what happens if, in fact, the product is not dangerous.

On the other hand, if the product is dangerous, perhaps there should be more than a label. Maybe the product should be banned. If it really is dangerous, and if it has been proven to be so, then we should ask ourselves: Is it sufficient simply to warn people that if they buy this product it will be dangerous? For people to buy that product is not a wise decision.

Our labels must be meaningful. There must be solid scientific evidence when we put a label on a product which says it is dangerous that it is dangerous. Then Canadians will be able to trust labels. Otherwise they become meaningless and there is a danger of economic hardship and lost jobs for no reason if in fact the science is wrong.

I would like to take another tack, that is the companies which manufacture these products would be totally foolish to use products which are dangerous. What would be in it for them? Why would a company produce a product which, over time, will end up causing harm to or the death of people? It does not make any sense. No company in our present society would do that willingly and knowingly.

I am sure my NDP friends will say that I am attributing too much morality to private corporations. I happen to believe that the morality is there. I have not yet encountered a corporation, except perhaps the tobacco companies, which would do this.

Of course, in the case of tobacco companies there is valid scientific evidence. Perhaps we ought to take stronger approaches to the curbing of the use of tobacco and smoking and wrapping our young people into that habit.

I would like to see solid scientific evidence. I believe that Health Canada has a role to play in this. It is currently conducting a study. It is my understanding that the results of the study will be out shortly. If the scientific evidence indicates there is no real danger, then it would show how badly conceived this bill is. If it comes up with the conclusion, soundly based on scientific evaluation, that the products which are manufactured in this way are dangerous, then we ought to do something more than simply label them and take further steps.

My argument is very simple. We need to make sure the labels are meaningful. They must not be based on emotion nor on the crusade of some group that has no scientific evidence. They must be based on sound scientific health evaluations and research. When that occurs the Canadian government has a role to play to protect our young people and our population.

Toy LabellingPrivate Members' Business

11:45 a.m.


Elinor Caplan Liberal Thornhill, ON

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise today and participate in the debate on Motion No. 85.

When I first reviewed this motion I could not pronounce the word phthalates and I think most Canadians on seeing the word might have the same difficulty. I undertook not only to learn the correct pronunciation but also to try to understand what was being proposed and why it was being proposed.

I want to thank the people at Health Canada for sharing with me the evidence, information and work they have undertaken.

Health Canada has the responsibility for ensuring the safety of products. I am convinced the department will take appropriate action as required to safeguard our children. I say that not just as a member of the House of Commons but as a grandmother. I have three grandchildren under the age of three and a half who also put things in their mouths. If they are putting things that are hazardous to their health in their mouths then I do not believe a label is adequate protection. That is why I have some concerns about the private member's motion before us today.

Health Canada has been concerned about phthalates since the 1980s. Last fall the environmental organization Greenpeace released a report on a group of chemicals. These are polyvinylchlorides or PVC plastics. PVC and plastics are contained not only in toys but in many things found in our everyday lives, from the seats in our cars to coverings on notebooks. The Greenpeace report actually set off the latest round in what is a longstanding debate on the potential hazards of PVCs in children's toys and elsewhere.

Today I would like to review the Greenpeace claim and inform the House of Health Canada's activities in response to this concern. I have been listening very carefully to the debate and I believe that every member of this House shares the concern about the safety of our children and our grandchildren. We also want to know if substances which we come in contact with in our daily lives have hazards that we should be aware of.

The history of phthalates is very important. According to the Greenpeace study eight of the 63 toys it tested were purchased in Canada. The report claimed that four of the six toys contained phthalate concentrations ranging from 20% to 39%.

Health Canada obtained a copy of the Greenpeace report and departmental officials have studied its findings. It is extremely important to note that the assessment was done in co-operation with international experts in this area. It is not just Canada and the United States but the world is interested in products which may have harmful contaminants.

Officials at Health Canada conducted a field survey and found that 63 toys mentioned in the Greenpeace report were available in Canada. All 63 toys were made in the United States and 38 of the toys are available in Canada.

Health Canada's health protection branch conducted its own tests on three of the four products that Greenpeace had identified as having significant concentrations of phthalates. The tests revealed a similar concentration of phthalates as the tests done by Greenpeace with levels ranging from 3.9% to 26%.

It should be noted that the phthalate identified in both studies is the one known as DINP. This chemical was introduced by toy manufacturers in the United States six years ago to replace another phthalate, DEHP. Why is the difference important? DEHP was thought to be potentially harmful and hazardous to children and was voluntarily taken from the marketplace and replaced with DINP.

Following its usual precautionary approach to potential health hazards, Health Canada expanded its testing and assessment of PVC plastic toys to an additional 30 products that were not on the Greenpeace list. With the exception of an unknown phthalate found in one sample, the only phthalate detected was DINP. Eight additional samples were then bought and tested. Only DINP was detected with very small amounts of DEHP.

These results support my view that private member's Motion No. 85 is premature. I believe it is premature because the scientific evidence is not in and available. I also believe that if the evidence showed that the phthalate DINP is a hazard to children, then labelling would be inadequate. Therefore, I do not believe we should proceed with this motion. It is my understanding that the research will be concluded this spring. The evidence will be there and will be evaluated.

I am convinced that Health Canada will remain vigilant in its quest to ensure that potential health risks which are posed by PVC plastic toys and others will be brought to the attention of all Canadians in an appropriate manner. If it is a health hazard it will be banned and not simply labelled.

The department is continuing to monitor the situation. It is testing plastic toys. As the minister has indicated, Health Canada and this government will take whatever action is necessary to protect the health of Canada's children.

It is important for us to have these debates in the House. One of the concerns I have is that we not unduly alarm people about potential hazards when there is no evidence to support those findings. I await the results of scientific evidence. I would urge all members of this House to make sure they get the facts straight when we are having this debate.

Should the investigations indicate that these additives in vinyl products pose or are likely to pose a risk to young children, I believe the department will not and should not hesitate to take necessary corrective measures. However, it would be irresponsible for us to act without the evidence to suggest that our children are in danger.

Toy LabellingPrivate Members' Business

11:50 a.m.


Dick Proctor NDP Palliser, SK

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to take part in this important debate this morning and to endorse the motion advanced by my colleague the member for Acadie—Bathurst on the toy labelling question.

Just to put this motion in perspective, members will recall that the motion was debated before Christmas. The member was endeavouring to have the toys removed from the shelves during the Christmas rush. We are on the second hour of debate and we are now endeavouring to see if we cannot get some action taken before next Christmas rolls around.

It is also noteworthy that it seemed in the initial hour of debate last December two of the other opposition parties in this place were supportive of the motion. However, they seem to have changed their minds, listening carefully to the debate this morning.

I want to make note of what this motion attempts to do. It recommends that the government introduce legislation requiring manufacturers to indicate on the label when a toy contains phthalates so that parents can make an informed decision before buying products for their children. As has been noted several times, we are particularly concerned about young children at the teething stage who want to put soft malleable toys in their mouths. We are concerned about it because phthalates have been proven to cause cancer, infertility and liver damage.

As I speak on this motion for the first time it alarms me to hear people say that the evidence is not in yet, that more studies must be done, and that Health Canada is doing more studies. Note that Health Canada has been busy laying off scientists right, left and centre. One wonders when and where we will get the scientific evidence referred to by the previous speaker. One hopes it will be this spring. We will wait to see.

A number of other countries have taken varying degrees of action on the issue of phthalates. Some of those countries are Denmark, Sweden, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, Austria, Germany, Belgium and the Philippines. We are studying the matter.

I suggest to members opposite that we should not be throwing the baby out with the bath water on this issue. We should be heeding what other countries are concluding in this area. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. It is better to err on the side of safety and wait until the studies are completed. It is better to take the necessary preventive action, put labels on the toys and children's clothing such as raincoats. Put the labels on now. If when Health Canada completes its tests it concludes there is no reason for alarm, then we would proceed accordingly. It is better to be safe than sorry, especially with the youngest and most vulnerable in our society.

In the Health Canada study, of the 17 products tested, 12 contained lead at levels higher than Health Canada's guideline. All of these products were in the range of between 295 parts per million to 17,714 parts per million. High levels of cadmium were also present in the products that were tested and two products exceeded the guideline for Health Canada's extractability which is 90 parts per million. Despite that evidence Health Canada has concluded to date that there is not a problem.

We believe some bona fide criticisms can be made in this area. Testing 17 of the many thousands of vinyl products on sale in Canada every year is not the comprehensive testing program others have done. Certainly there is the Greenpeace report.

Only one type of extractability test was done for the Health Canada report. Health Canada did not do a surface lead test on brand new products, nor did it do an ultraviolet light degradation study. This is particularly problematic since a lot of products are sold for use outdoors. The majority of products tested by Health Canada exceeded its guidelines for total lead content. We fail to understand why this is not deemed to be a problem.

The motion before us today is very important. I urge all members of the House to support this motion when it comes to a vote.

Toy LabellingPrivate Members' Business



Hec Clouthier Liberal Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Madam Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to stand in this estimable place today to address this very worthisome motion.

Far be it for me to be at variance with my colleague from Thornhill, but she did mispronounce the word phthalates. She is from Toronto, and being from the upper Ottawa valley, from the great riding of Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, we have our own Ottawa Valley vernacular. I would ask my hon. colleague from Thornhill to forgive me for the way we pronounce it and the way we say Toronto or the big smoke. We do not enunciate Toronto.

Having cleared up that issue, I am very pleased to address the motion before the House on phthalates in plastic toys. The potential health hazards of polyvinyl chloride or PVC in plastic toys is not a new issues. It is one that Health Canada has been involved with since the mid-1980s. Probably the member for Calgary Southeast would not remember it being brought to Health Canada in the 1980s. He was probably in diapers at that stage of his illustrious career.

I take this opportunity to provide the House with some background information on this important children's health issue and to review Health Canada's ongoing response to it.

The department has taken a strong leadership role over the past 12 years in assessing and acting upon potential PVC health risks to children. The issue of phthalates in children's products, especially a potentially hazardous phthalate known as DEHP, has been investigated by Health Canada and other foreign governmental agencies for a number of years.

In the early 1990s Health Canada took an active role in ongoing research over children's PVC products, specifically pacifiers. The department shared its concerns about DEHP and its research with the Consumer Product Safety Commission in the United States.

In 1991 Toy Manufacturers of America voluntarily decided to discontinue the use of DEHP. In early 1992 Health Canada conducted a survey to confirm the toy manufacturers' statement and found that the majority of children's products made of PVC contained only trace amounts of DEHP which were well below maximum acceptable levels. Building on this progress, Health Canada maintains contact with scientific organizations and governments around the world to obtain the latest information and research on potentially hazardous phthalates.

Last June the department investigated a Danish report indicating a potentially hazardous substance in a teething ring. Immediate tests showed no scientific evidence of DEHP in the rings. However, the department is doing further evaluations to determine the potential risk of other phthalates in these and other types of plastic toys. The testing is in line with Health Canada's policy of investigating toys or products brought to its attention as potentially dangerous. While the department is not aware of any incident in which a child has ever had an adverse reaction to phthalates, including the discontinued—

Toy LabellingPrivate Members' Business


The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

I am afraid I must interrupt. The time provided for the consideration of Private Members' Business has now expired. The order will be dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the order paper.

The House resumed from February 24 consideration of the motion that Bill C-19, an act to amend the Canada Labour Code (Part I) and the Corporations and Labour Unions Returns Act and to make consequential amendments to other acts, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

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Monte Solberg Reform Medicine Hat, AB

Madam Speaker, I rise today to speak against Bill C-19, an act to amend the Canada Labour Code, for a couple of reasons.

First, Bill C-19 erodes a couple of Canada's highest political values, both democracy and freedom. Second, Bill C-19 causes division not only between employers and employees but also because it creates two classes of citizens in Canada.

Specifically the legislation sets the rights of people who ship grain above the rights of those people who, for instance, might ship other commodities like those of their neighbours next door who grow something like alfalfa.

I also point out that the legislation has been roundly criticized by a number of people. It is not just me who holds the legislation in low esteem. For instance, we note in the last parliament that the Liberal dominated committee which examined the legislation found cause to criticize a number of aspects of the legislation. At that time it was known as Bill C-66. In part the legislation died going into the last election. Liberal senators wanted to take some time to look at it and as a result the legislation died.

It has been reintroduced as Bill C-19 and I want to explain to the public and to my colleagues in the House why I strongly oppose this piece of legislation.

The first thing that concerns me is the fact that the new Canada Industrial Relations Board, the replacement for the Canada Labour Board, would be allowed to certify a union on virtually any pretext without a democratic vote. That is completely anti-democratic. It stands opposed to everything that Canadians as democrats truly believe in. I am offended that the government would choose to introduce this now and to allow that to happen.

If my colleagues doubt for a moment the impact of that type of provision, I refer them to what happened recently in both Ontario and British Columbia where provincial legislation allows labour boards to essentially go ahead and certify unions either in opposition to what workers have decided themselves in a free vote or in some cases allowing labour bodies to go around the idea of having a vote at all.

One of the best examples is a Wal-Mart store in Nelson, B.C., where recently the British Columbia Labour Board disallowed a vote because “an employer told an employee he would not benefit from the union”. People at the labour board in B.C. have determined that someone's right to free speech, to persuade employees, is somehow wrong. Therefore they disallowed the idea of a vote. It was absolutely unbelievable.

This type of sweeping power would be granted to the new labour board the government is forming now under this new legislation. It is anti-democratic and as democrats we must stand against it.

The second big reason we need to oppose the legislation is that the jurisprudence of the Canada Labour Relations Board would lead us to expect that the new CIRB would deem the use of replacement workers to be unlawful conduct. This causes me grave concern.

Under the current legislation federally regulated industries can use replacement workers to keep their operations viable. In some cases they have to do that if they want to survive as a business. The new legislation will give the board the power to say that they cannot use replacement workers. This is extraordinarily dangerous. It is a step backward.

To all those people out there who understand that in a very competitive global economy these days we need provisions of all kinds to keep our businesses going, they understand intuitively that this will work against that principle and in fact will endanger the livelihoods of the very people who should be benefiting, the employees, if a business is able to keep going. We stand opposed to that.

I note that my colleagues in the Senate raised it as an issue they were very concerned about, as they did also about the issue of the decertification and certification of unions without a vote. It was absolutely unbelievable. They raised these as issues they were very concerned about. I point out that these are Liberal and Conservative senators by and large.

A third point concerns me very much. I know we do not have a lot of time to speak on these issues. Under this new legislation the Canada Industrial Relations Board can order an employer to release to a union representative a list of the names and addresses of the employees who work off site. There is absolutely no provision for obtaining the employees' consent to do that. That causes me concern.

My friends in the Senate were concerned about that as well. They have raised this issue. We know the Sims task force preceded Bill C-66. It provided the basis for some of that legislation. In addition to raising concerns about things like replacement worker provisions the government was proposing and about the proposal to go ahead and certify a union without a democratic vote, it raised concerns about the issue of people's right to privacy. The senators pointed out that if people did not want to be hassled by a union it should be their right.

The privacy commissioner also said that people should not have to be hassled by a union if they do not want to be hassled by it. There could easily be provision for people who work off site to be informed of what a union is proposing, if they give their consent to the employer to release their names and addresses.

That is private information. We should not be putting into legislation provisions that allow unions to go ahead and contact people at home, at their place of work or wherever, when they do not want that to happen. It is important for people who believe in that fundamental freedom, that right to privacy, that we oppose this piece of legislation. Those are things people have talked about in a lot of detail up until now.

I want to talk about one particular aspect of the legislation which affects my riding. It is the provision that would allow service to grain vessels to continue in a strike or lockout condition but would not allow other types of service for other types of commodities.

This is of particular concern in my riding where five plants produce dehydrated alfalfa. When there has been a shutdown on the west coast, in the past those plants have lost millions of dollars in sales. It is a $100 million a year industry. Farmers who grow alfalfa will not get their product from the port to the ship but grain producers will.

We do not want to take anything away from grain producers. Their gain is wonderful. By allowing that essentially what happens is that the bargaining position of alfalfa producers and shippers is weakened. They can no longer combine with the politically powerful farmers who want their grain shipped to markets across the ocean. They are set aside in the legislation. It creates a two tier system and we think it is absolutely wrong.

I stand with my colleagues in the Reform Party and strongly condemn the government for Bill C-19. We believe it is divisive, anti-democratic and works against the principle of freedom. I encourage colleagues around the House to work with their colleagues in the Senate to oppose the legislation. We think Bill C-19 is wrong.

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12:10 p.m.


Jason Kenney Reform Calgary Southeast, AB

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak to the Bill C-19 amendments to the Canada Labour Code which my colleagues and I are opposing.

This is an anti-democratic bill which overrides the privacy rights of workers and collective bargaining, properly conceived.

Let me say at the outset that the Reform Party has, since its founding, supported the principle of collective bargaining. We believe that workers, by joining together democratically through an appropriate, open, transparent and democratic process, may decide, quite legitimately, to negotiate collectively and bargain collectively with their employers. That is a fundamental economic right which is recognized in every liberal democracy and which is also recognized by the Reform Party.

What Bill C-19 seeks to do, by amending the Canada Labour Code, is to change the legal framework within which those collective bargaining rights are exercised by people who work in industries regulated by the federal government.

This bill changes the name and the powers of the Canada Labour Relations Board to the Canada Industrial Relations Board. The cosmetic change of its name reflects a significant change in the powers which will be given to the board.

One of the principal objections I have to the bill is that the new board will have, as my colleague from Medicine Hat mentioned, the power to ban replacement workers in federally regulated industries. That means that a company which has done its level best in fair negotiation to provide a fair deal to its employees but which finds that the union leadership, for one reason or another, decides to strike, will be held ransom. Its livelihood and ultimately the livelihood of its workers will be held at the whim of the union leadership. This company will not have the right, if proscribed by the Canada Industrial Relations Board, to replace striking workers with people who can continue to provide those goods and services. In other words, the economic viability of various companies and indeed various industries can and may very well be threatened by this bill if it is passed.

As the hon. member mentioned, the government recognizes the flaw in empowering the CIRB to ban replacement workers by exempting those workers employed in the area of grain shipping and handling at the ports. In the past there have been several instances when those workers have gone on strike and caused enormous economic turmoil for prairie grain farmers because of their inability to export overseas the grain they have produced. These amendments do not really solve that problem. The ability to hire replacement workers will not necessarily mean that grain will move. What it does mean is that we are creating a double standard for workers, one standard for those who do not work in the grain handling unions and one standard for those who do.

If banning replacement workers is wrong in the grain handling situation, then it is wrong for those who do not handle grain, those who handle other commodities, those who provide other goods and services, those who are as essential to the Canadian economy as our grain workers.

We would seek to remove the provisions of this bill which, in a discriminatory way, create a double standard with respect to replacement workers.

Another serious concern I have with the bill is its treatment of the certification issue. This bill would empower the CIRB to certify a union local at a particular place of business even if the majority of the employees at that place vote against certification.

My colleagues will correct me if I am wrong, but I thought we were living in a democracy. I thought that in a democracy the majority, or at least a strong plurality, prevailed. However, in the case of the amendments to Bill C-19 the government is saying that the principle of democracy can be marginalized.

If a bunch of appointed members of this board, likely Liberal patronage hacks, decide that a particular local place of business is to be certified, it will be certified by that board even against the overwhelming objection of the people who work there.

My colleague mentioned the recent case of a Wal-Mart store in Nelson, British Columbia, which has similar legislation to that being introduced here, where the B.C. labour relations board ordered that the Nelson Wal-Mart employees be unionized even though they voted against it in their certification vote. A similar thing happened at a Wal-Mart store in Windsor, Ontario. We could see the same thing happening across the country in federally regulated industries if these amendments are passed.

We are also concerned about the question of privacy. This bill would undermine the privacy rights of union workers. This is a very serious consideration. People are often forced into a union. We are talking about a labour regime of closed shop unions where the board can force the people to be in a certified union. Now we are saying their privacy rights are to be compromised by this bill. This is really big brother manifest in this kind of legislation and that is why we are opposed to it.

What we ought to do is look at a fair, open and transparent regime for regulating labour unions. We have no objection to people legitimately exercising their collective bargaining rights. However, this bill would create a double standard, would jeopardize the privacy rights of workers and would jeopardize the livelihoods of many businesses and potentially some industries through its treatment of replacement workers.

Finally, this bill would override the principle of democracy which should govern the treatment of unions in the certification process. Frankly, I think it is an exercise of statist tyrannical power to tell a majority of workers that they are going to be forced into a union and forced to pay dues against their will. That is simply wrong.

We ought to look at bills like this at the level of first principles. So often we get buried in the details of technical amendments like this and we lose sight of first principles. One of the principles of liberal democracy is freedom. I know it is a quaint notion to some of my friends opposite on occasion. However, that notion dictates that people cannot be coerced by the state to surrender their freedoms without their consent. Bill C-19 would seek to circumscribe the economic freedoms of workers to not be unionized, not certified and not forced to pay union dues if they choose not to.

We ought to put Bill C-19 and these amendments back on the drawing board. As the Senate committee suggested, we ought to start all over again and listen to the business groups across this country that are speaking out against this. I have received several phone calls, letters and faxes from different businesses and business organizations that say this bill constitutes a very real threat to the competitiveness of the Canadian labour force and our labour markets.

I would ask all my hon. colleagues, including those on the Liberal side, to look beyond the spin they are getting from the labour department and look at the first principles behind this bill and vote against Bill C-19.

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12:20 p.m.


Dick Proctor NDP Palliser, SK

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise and take part in this debate on Bill C-19. In contrast to the previous two speakers, it is the wish of our caucus at this end of the House to encourage that this bill pass. We have not seen amendments to the Canada Labour Code in more than two decades and it is now time to move on and get up to speed.

The Liberals in the previous House allowed the amendments under Bill C-66 to die in the face of business lobbying. Some Senate opposition and Liberal tradeoffs to push other bills through before the last election prevented Canadian workers from having the representation and legal rights they should have and that the revisions to the Canada Labour Code will give back to them.

Part I of the code creates a framework for collective bargaining by the federal private sector and applies to approximately 700,000 workers. In June 1995 the Minister of Labour established a task force to conduct an independent review and recommend legislative changes.

The task force report was released a couple of years ago and the minister met with representatives of labour, management and other interested parties to hear the views on the task force recommendations. Bill C-66, the previous bill, reflected the task force's recommendations and these consultations.

Support for revisions to the code are long overdue. Although they do not go far enough we think it is certainly worthy of our support.

I listened with a great deal of interest to the member for Medicine Hat and the member for Calgary Southeast talking about this bill and parading themselves as friends of ordinary Canadians and working people, which is anything but what the Reform Party is all about.

The hon. member's leader is opposed to government regulated minimum wage laws. I am sure the member would support him. He is on record saying that minimum wages should be linked to supply and demand and not to government regulated minimum wage. We know the member for Calgary West comes from the National Citizens' Coalition and worked on something called citizens against enforced unionism when he was a member of that not so august body.

In speaking to the bill I was particularly struck by the amendments introduced last September by the member for Wetaskiwin who I believe was then and is still now the Reform Party's labour critic. He introduced a number of motions at that time and I wanted to go through some of them to give people listening a sense of what this party thinks.

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12:25 p.m.


Jason Kenney Reform Calgary Southeast, AB

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of privilege. The hon. member for Palliser said that I have worked for an organization that I have never worked for. I would like him to correct the record and apologize for misrepresenting my background.

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12:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

I would ask the hon. member for Palliser to perhaps clarify what he was referring to.

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12:25 p.m.


Dick Proctor NDP Palliser, SK

Madam Speaker, if I said it, it was inadvertent. I was referring to the member for Calgary West who replaced Steven Harper, not the member for Calgary Southeast. If I said Southeast I apologize but I was not referring to the member who just spoke.

In any event, I am now referring to the comments made by the hon. member for Wetaskiwin last September 24. Motion No. 4 at that time said government should support rights for all Canadians and young people in particular to enter the workforce and achieve their potential. This sounds very innocuous, very laudatory.

Motion No. 5 states:

Government should ensure that unions and professional bodies do not block qualified people from working in a trade or profession or from gaining the necessary qualifications to enable them to work in a trade or profession.

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12:25 p.m.

An hon. member

Right on.

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12:25 p.m.


Dick Proctor NDP Palliser, SK

It is not right on, it is the right to work. Later the same day the same member said in Motion No. 6:

Expand section 70 of Canadian Labour Code to include rights of individual employees to refuse to allow any portion of their dues to be paid for any cause not related to the function of their union that the employee does not personally support.

We go back to the Ontario Public Service Employment Union and Merv Lavigne in the 1980s, aided and abetted by the National Citizens' Coalition, on this whole question, and what Justice Bertha Wilson had to say about it and the awarding of costs to the union.

She went to the Americans because they have similar legislation to what is being proposed by the member for Wetaskiwin. The following is what Supreme Court Justice Bertha Wilson had to say:

When American unions speak out on political matters, they must refund to dissenting members the prorated costs of such activities. U.S. Corps do not have this problem. Corporations may speak out with a far louder voice heavily outspending Labour on dissemination of their views. Indeed the proof of this imbalance can be seen in the results in the decline in rate of union reps.

Among American workers Madam Justice Wilson noted that it had gone from a 35% rate of unionization in the United States in the 1940s to barely 20% by 1980.

It is our view on this side of the House that Canadian unions would meet the same fate if we had similar legislation adopted in this country.

This is the area of attack the Reform Party makes against working men and women in close concert with the National Citizens' Coalition and the Fraser Institute, both of which are good friends. They are in favour of making closed shops illegal. We have heard some of that, new laws to undermine effective strike action and paramountcy of private property over collective rights. We certainly have heard that from the two previous speakers of the Reform Party.

I think the official opposition party and their friends in the National Citizens' Coalition and the Fraser Institute could be counted upon to pursue any goals toward deunionization in the country. In fact the Fraser Institute, the research arm of the Reform Party, has dedicated $250,000 for such work over and above the cost of hiring a co-ordinator for a new five-year plan called towards a new millennium.

They plan to publish a right to work, how to guide on establishing right to work in Canada, more conferences in jurisdictions sympathetic to right to work, contrasting U.S.-Canada labour laws, blaming Canada's high unemployment on what they perceive to be unfair, unbalanced labour legislation.

I think it could be summarized no better than what the previous Reform member, Herb Grubel, who is now happily back working with the Fraser Institute, had to say some time ago:

The most basic contribution that Canadians governments could make is reduction of power of unions by appropriate changes in the labour codes. There should also be expanded deregulation and privatization and an across the board wage cut of 13%.

When the member for Crowfoot suggests that we do not know what we are talking about when it comes to the Reform Party and its views on labour, we think we do know a thing or two.

We think that what they are trying to establish here is Alabama north. It is a race to the bottom, who will do it for the least amount of money. We reject that wholeheartedly and we urge that this bill be passed into law as quickly as possible.

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12:30 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Rick Borotsik Progressive Conservative Brandon—Souris, MB

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak to proposed legislation, Bill C-19.

With great respect to the previous speaker, the member for Palliser, I learned a long time ago that in fact there are certain issues that we are going to agree to disagree on. It is philosophical. I will not convince the hon. member for Palliser to think in my direction, nor do I expect that he can convince me to think in his direction.

However, in saying that, there are a number of differing views with this piece of legislation. I will go back to a piece of legislation that I am very familiar with. I look at the parallels of the Canadian Wheat Board Act, Bill C-4, and this legislation. I raise this because both pieces of legislation were flawed when they came to this House.

There was and is a great deal of controversy with both pieces of legislation. Both pieces of legislation were introduced in the previous Parliament and both died on the Order Paper. They essentially came back with very few, if any, changes or amendments although the government at that time had the opportunity to listen to the people who would be affected by both pieces of legislation.

In the case of Bill C-4, western Canadian farmers would be affected. Bill C-19 would not only wrongfully impact the business community in Canada but also the unions in Canada. It is a very divisive piece of legislation that will not resolve any of the current outstanding issues.

I would say to the member for Palliser that I am not a unionist, I never have been, nor have I embraced the philosophies. However, I am a fair individual who believes that there is a need for labour unions. I have negotiated across the table from labour unions and I believe very strongly there is a need and a right to have fair management-labour relationships as well as negotiated settlements in any type of labour contract. I honestly believe that, and it can be achieved.

I also believe there is a need for balance which must be there in order for both parties to put their prospective positions on the table and to come to a negotiated agreement. Bill C-19 does not provide the balance. It has, unfortunately, taken the balance and given it to one side of the equation, one side of the argument. I believe the hon. member would have spoken against the legislation because there was an unfair balance if it would have come forward such that it changed the balance in favour of management and corporations.

There is an unfair balance in this legislation. There is substantial controversy out there. I wish the government would have put forward a well thought out, logical piece of legislation that incorporated that balance.

I will read some headlines from several local papers: “Business anxiety is mounting over the proposed changes to the Labour Code”; “Liberals ready to duplicate ill-conceived Ontario labour law”; “Shippers fear scheme will increase labour strife”; “Grain ports law angers B.C. business”; “New labour code rules benefit unions”; “The higher unemployment bill”, referring to Bill C-19; “Closer examination reveals flaws in rewritten Labour Code amendments”. After having read these articles, I understand there is a great deal of divisiveness in the business community.

Our party has already spoken about a number of concerns with this legislation. Without question our first and foremost concern is with the replacement workers clause in Bill C-19. It is unfair. When the Sims report was tabled, this was one of the areas that was not agreed to in the report. There were some serious concerns about it and a minority report argued against a general ban on the use of replacement workers. It changes the balance of power to the unions as opposed to having that balance between management and labour.

There is another area of concern that is very real and serious with respect to Bill C-19, that of the offsite workers. This is an invasion of privacy, an invasion into a person's ability to be employed in Canada without having others access your employment ability on offsite workers from a particular corporation. It is a travesty that the government would put this forward in this bill.

We are also concerned about certification not requiring the majority vote of the employees. It is very serious when others can dictate to the majority what it will have to do according to the minority speaking.

Another area of concern is that of the work stoppage at ports, the shipment of grain and other commodities. I have some mixed feelings about this particular clause in the legislation. I believe very strongly that for too long western Canadian farmers have been held hostage by unionized workers in the ports and the railroads. They are always held hostage at the time of year when it is most vital. The transportation of the grains should be allowed through to the ports so that our reputation as Canadian producers is not going to be impacted by not having just in time delivery with these commodities.

I have mixed feelings that this particular clause in the legislation is a good clause. However, I would not like to see this clause changed to benefit labour. If it is good for grain, it should be good for other commodities. All commodities should be treated equally. If it is good enough for grain then there should not be work stoppages because the ramifications of the position in the world marketplace.

Other commodities should be given the same co-operation. Those other commodities are in most cases directly related to production of agriculture. Fertilizers should be given the same opportunity. We have other commodities such as coal and potash. We have major commodities that should be given the same opportunity in this legislation as what is given to grain. However, I would not like to lose the clause that speaks to the grain component if that whole clause was going to be rewritten.

Our party is on record as saying that we will be opposed to Bill C-19. My preference would be for the government to see the error of its ways and take this legislation off the table. It should take it back to the Canadians, the business community, as well as the labour unions to try to negotiate and work out a fair and balanced approach to the changes to Bill C-19.

It should have been done with Bill C-4 where there was such a backlash with the legislation. In fact, when the legislation is being approved, it will not solve or resolve any of the problems. It should be done with Bill C-19. The government should learn from past mistakes to take the legislation back and bring forward to this House a balanced piece of legislation that will ensure that all sides of this equation and argument will be satisfied.

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12:40 p.m.


Howard Hilstrom Reform Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak on Bill C-19. This bill starts with a change in the name to the bill from the Canadian Labour Relations Board to the Canadian Industrial Relations Board. This certainly differentiates it from the original bill that was brought forward. It is not as specific. I would like to point out that this bill still has to do with labour relations.

What else does this bill do? The member for Palliser commented very strongly on support of the union particularly on the west coast. I would like to make it clear that the NDP, the member for Palliser and the rest of his colleagues have at heart only the interests of the unions. The Reform Party has the interests of unionized workers and the non-unionized workers such as farmers in western Canada. It is this kind of an approach that is required when bringing legislation before this House.

Serving only the interests of the big unions on the west coast is a dramatic hindrance to the economic performance of this country and it is a dramatic hindrance to agriculture in western Canada. We only have to look at some of the problems that arise for farmers in the west to see that every dollar counts.

In the past couple of years we have had the transportation problems with grain moving to the west coast. Over the years there have been many strikes and grain sales were held up. The problems I am referring to in the past years have ended up costing farmers in the neighbourhood of $100 million between demurrage costs, lost sales and those kinds of thing.

When legislation is brought forward in this House, we have to look at whether or not it is good overall in the sense that is it 80% to 90% good for everyone, or is it really just good for a small segment of workers. Good legislation should not disadvantage to a great extent any one group in Canadian society. As an example, a piece of legislation which comes to mind as good and which everyone can support is the RCMP superannuation act. It is legislation where everyone wins.

Bill C-19 has some good points. However in the whole it is insufficient to pass a bill that does only a little good and a whole lot of harm. It certainly does good. If there is an elevator terminal on the west coast full of grain and a strike happens, the people who move the grain from the elevator on to a ship are required to go back to work to put that grain on.

However, as the days drag on in a strike and if the elevator was empty or was not necessarily full at the start, what happens then? This legislation will not enable the agriculture products from western Canada to continue moving because there will not be anything to move. What is the solution? Certainly labour has to be treated fairly and properly. There are mechanisms by which this can be done.

The Reform Party has very clearly come out with a plan that would enable the unions and the workers to be treated fairly. They would receive good compensation for the work they do. It would also protect those people who do not have protection under legislation, for example the farmers in western Canada and other small businesses that move their products through ports.

I would suggest as put forward by the Reform Party that a labour dispute settlement mechanism such as final offer selection arbitration would be useful on the west coast. It would ensure that labour is treated fairly, that it is properly compensated for its efforts and that farmers in western Canada continue to have their grains and other products moved.

Strikes in the public sector differ from those in the private sector because of the monopolistic nature of most public services. Final offer selection arbitration gives labour and management the tools to resolve their differences. It does not favour one side over the over. It eliminates government interference in the negotiations.

The Reform Party believes that final offer selection arbitration would provide protection from back to work legislation in a strike or lockout situation.

We only have to look back a few weeks to see the mess we were in during the post office strike. In that case both union and management knew that the House was going to have to do something eventually. Therefore they had no incentive to get together to come up with a good solution. As a result many Canadians suffered drastically as that strike went on, primarily small business and small farmers.

My friends to the left in the NDP represent only the big unions. They have no balanced approach to represent all Canadians. I agree the unions have to have the right to organize, the right to bargain, but their right is not supreme over the right of all Canadians. That is the point I make in that regard.

I will quickly comment on how this final selection arbitration would work. If and only if the union and employer cannot make an agreement by the conclusion of the previous contract, the union and employer would provide the minister with the name of a person or persons they jointly recommend as an arbitrator or arbitration panel. The union and employer would be required to submit to the arbitrator/panel a list of the matters agreed upon and a list of matters still under dispute.

For disputed issues each party would be required to submit a final offer for settlement. The arbitrator/panel selects either the final offer submitted by the trade union or the final offer submitted by the employer, all of one position or all of the other position. The arbitrator's decision would be binding on both parties.

As the member for Brandon—Souris commented, this legislation is exactly like Bill C-4. Nobody but those with a narrow little interest wants to see this legislation go ahead. As a result I cannot support this bill.

I support the Reform Party's position that we want to see unions treated fairly. We want to see non-unionized people treated fairly. I believe the plan we have put forward will do that.

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12:50 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

Is the House ready for the question?

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Some hon. members


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The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

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