House of Commons Hansard #104 of the 36th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was workers.


Division No. 137Government Orders

12:40 p.m.

Guelph—Wellington Ontario


Brenda Chamberlain LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Labour

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-19 introduces for the first time in the Canada Labour Code provisions that would require the maintenance of activities necessary to prevent immediate and serious danger to public health and safety during work stoppages.

The bill also introduces a requirement for employers and employees in the ports to continue to provide services to grain vessels loaded at licensed terminal and transfer elevators.

The official opposition has put forward motions to amend these provisions. One would make economic hardship to the national economy a criterion for requiring parties to maintain services during a work stoppage. The others would require the parties in the ports to continue to provide their services to all vessels and to authorize the board to refer collective bargaining disputes in the ports for settlement by final offer selection arbitration.

Together these amendments would effectively remove the strike and lockout rights from all parties in the ports as well as large numbers of other employers and employees subject to part one of the code.

Such an interventionist approach is contrary to the wishes of employers and unions who engage in collective bargaining under the code.

There is no precedent in Canada for the standing removal of strike and lockout rights from private sector parties as the official opposition is suggesting with respect to parties in the ports.

In addition, no Canadian jurisdiction includes economic impact as a criterion for maintaining services during work stoppages, nor did parties subject to the code support such an approach.

The Sims task force examined the issue of maintenance of activities and concluded that the right to strike or lockout should be removed from any group of workers or any employers subject to the code. The task force did recommend that the code include specific provisions for the protection of public health and safety, criteria supported by both labour and management.

The maintenance of activities provisions in Bill C-19 fairly balances the collective bargaining rights of employees and employers subject to the code with the public's right to protection of health and safety.

Turning now to the grain provision, grain has been declared to be for the general advantage of Canada. It is a multibillion dollar industry exporting to over 70 countries worldwide. The livelihood of over 130,000 farmers and their families depends on Canada's maintaining its reputation as a reliable exporter.

These interests must, however, be balanced with the rights of labour and management to determine fair terms and conditions of employment through collective bargaining.

Since 1972 there have been 12 work stoppages in west coast ports which have disrupted grain exports. Nine of these work stoppages have involved longshoremen and their employers and were ended by parliament. Only three work stoppages have involved grain handlers and in one case the major terminal elevators in Vancouver were not affected.

Two independent studies found that longshore employers and unions have avoided their collective bargaining responsibilities by using disruptions to grain exports to trigger back to work legislation.

The grain provision in Bill C-19 is designed to reduce disruptions to grain exports caused by work stoppages in the ports, reduce the reliance of parties in the ports on parliamentary intervention in their disputes and maintain the strike and lockout rights of parties in both the port and grain handling sectors.

Claims that this provision discriminates against other resources by singling out grain for special treatment overlook the fact that grain has already been singled out by longshore employers and unions using it as a trigger for back to work legislation.

Claims that longshore unions will use the revenue earned by loading grain to finance longer work stoppages are without foundation. No more than 200 employees in a total west coast longshore workforce of well over 3,000 ever service grain vessels.

In the main port of Vancouver the percentage of longshore employees assigned to grain vessels is between 5% and 8%. After tax earnings from this source would not sustain a lengthy work stoppage for the union which maintains no strike fund.

This provision has the full support of the grain industry and the grain producers who, unlike other resource producers, have no relationship or influence on collective bargaining between the longshore employers and unions. I also want to note that the government has committed to reviewing the effectiveness of this provision in 1999.

I think it is important that if one had been at the hearings and heard farmers speak about this clause and knew how much the western farmers need this clause it would be hard to understand why the Reform Party is trying to hold up this bill. It is hard for me to understand why it is holding the western farmers hostage in this particular issue.

I do urge members to support the provisions in Bill C-19 and reject the radical approaches being suggested by the official opposition which would conflict with Canada's International Labour Organization commitments.

Division No. 137Government Orders

12:45 p.m.


Yves Rocheleau Bloc Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased once again to participate in this debate, particularly as it regards these two motions put forward by the Reform Party. Many things can be said about that party, but it cannot be said to keep its cards close to its chest. It cannot be said to hide the contempt it has for the workers or at least for labour organizations.

Since things in this House are not always spelled out, it is worth reading these motions for the benefit of our listeners and for your benefit, Mr. Speaker, to see what they are all about.

The first little masterpiece is found on page 28. Motion No. 18 of the Reform Party concerns section 87.4, which deals essentially with the maintenance of certain activities, which we in Quebec refer to in more transparent terms as essential services, such as public safety and health, as the Canada Labour Code refers to. However, as you will see, the Reform Party has added a very cute line about public safety and health with respect to economic activities in this country.

87.4(1) During a strike or lockout not prohibited by this Part, the employer, the trade union and the employees in the bargaining unit must continue the supply of services, operation of facilities or production of goods to the extent necessary to prevent an immediate and serious danger to the safety or health of the public.

If ever the Reform Party came to power in Canada—poor Canada—this would be all the more reason for Quebeckers to leave this country. And there are plenty of reasons. The Reform Party wants to add the following:

“of the public or the causing of severe economic hardship to the national economy”.

What this actually does is undermine the very existence of the right to strike and form a union because, ultimately, unions no longer have the right to strike, which is one of the things that make society fairer. Let us not kid ourselves; in the history of humanity, unions are a plus, not a minus.

Tactics as vicious as this, where a few little words completely undermine the real power, the equal footing at the heart of labour management negotiations, are a move—and a completely neo-Liberal one at that—to destroy the middle class.

The middle class benefits from the distribution of wealth and, through social programs and collective agreements, from the fact that wealth in this world is no longer concentrated in the hands of a tiny few but has been redistributed among several thousands of individuals. In the West, Europe, Scandinavia, North America, but unfortunately not many other places, there is a strong middle class that may also enjoy life.

That is what is at stake, make no mistake, if we approve such a motion, which adds a few words to ensure that strikes do not cause severe economic hardship to the national economy. They must not put anyone out. “Go ahead and strike, but we will make sure that no one is put out”. This is very hypocritical and cynical and members should be aware that it is part of an ideology that would see the gap between rich and poor grow as wide as possible and wealth increasingly concentrated in the hands of a tiny few, as it was before the industrial revolution and the appearance of unions in the western world.

The same holds for the other amendment, which is undoubtedly a recommendation of the Sims report. It refers directly to the problem already experienced by western Canada, where there is a special provision for grain vessels, and the fact that grain vessels and all related port activities must continue to operate, strike or no strike, and this provision is imposed on employers and unions. As I understood the witnesses, the wisdom of this provision is the envy of other sectors of activity.

But grain shipping is an activity based on a perishable product and that is what lawmakers, in their wisdom, wish to illustrate. It seems that the members of the Reform Party and the right, those with a one track mind, cannot contemplate such subtlety in society, that is, they cannot contemplate our making legislative provision for perishable goods known as grains, which determine the economic activity of an entire region of this great country Canada, where those who testified, the farmers, are economically vulnerable.

This is what the code is attempting to remedy and what we support, but what is opposed by the spokespeople of big business, that is the oil and mining companies, which complained that one sector was getting special treatment while the necessary adjustments were not being made.

Very few people are aware of the fact, and I think the members all learned about it from a witness, whose name I have unfortunately forgotten, that this provision is contained in the Canadian Constitution, which would have to be amended in order to do away with this issue of grain crops and the special status accorded grains and wheat production in the west.

Therefore the wording of the code is warranted. The Reform Party, with Motion No. 22, is seeking to replace the words “grain vessels” with “let-go and loading of vessels and the move”. Thus they are broadening the scope of the bill by changing its content and giving everyone the same treatment. There would be no more special status.

The very particular matter of wheat's perishable nature is trivialized in total disregard of the spirit of the legislation before us.

These are two motions that reflect the profound thinking of the Reform Party, which manipulates words a bit too much, by the way. The word “reform” is being hackneyed. That is somewhat unfortunate of itself. We would hope the House will reject as vigorously as possible this sort of amendment, which is too much like a school of thought—which, we hope, will soon disappear—that of the impoverishment of the poor and the enrichment of the rich, concentration rather than distribution of wealth.

It is unfortunate that we have in this House the sort of lawyers that have become the apostles of this battle, which leads nowhere, that they are questioning the gains made by humanity at great cost, resulting in a respectable middle class in certain countries. This cannot be permitted, and we will fight it with our last breath.

Division No. 137Government Orders

12:55 p.m.


Larry McCormick Liberal Hastings—Frontenac—Lennox And Addington, ON

Mr. Speaker, thank you for the opportunity to speak to the motions in Group No. 6 of Bill C-19. I am sure my hardworking colleague from the official opposition, the critic for the labour file and the member for Wetaskiwin, recognizes this is a very important bill and a very positive step in amending the Canada Labour Code.

I am sure most of my colleagues in this House remember sitting in this House on a Saturday and a Sunday in 1994 in support of our western grain producers.

The official opposition has proposed a change to section 87.7 from a limited requirement for parties in the ports to continue services to grain vessels to a complete ban on strikes and lockouts in the ports.

Section 87.7 addresses a specific problem identified by two independent studies. That is, parties in the west coast ports have been using disruptions to grain exports as a trigger for parliamentary intervention in their disputes. Removing this trigger without removing the strike and lockout rights of the parties will force them to accept their responsibilities and develop their own solutions to collective bargaining issues.

Opponents of this provision claim it discriminates against other resources. However when questioned before the standing committee, they admitted that it is in their interest to retain grain as a trigger for parliamentary intervention. They know that as long as grain exports are disrupted, parliament will be quickly pressured into intervening in a work stoppage. They want to be able to continue to use the 130,000 western grain farm families as pawns in someone else's labour dispute.

Section 87.7 has the strong support of western grain producers and the grain industry. These groups pointed out to the committee that the grain industry is unique not only because it is food and because the world continues to exist on an 18 to 21 day grain supply, but also because of the political nature of production, transportation and marketing. It is this uniqueness of grain that has been detrimental to the labour peace at the west coast ports during contract negotiations. In their view section 87.7 will help bring grain back to a more level playing field.

The government is of the view, as was the Sims task force, that without the ability to interrupt grain exports, the parties in the ports will be forced to accept their responsibilities and to settle their disputes without lengthy work stoppages. Those who oppose the provision claim and some even threaten that the provision will not work. It can work. The parties have the ability to negotiate with each other and conclude agreements which are good for them and for the health of the ports. They should concentrate on solving their own problems.

If Canadian ports are to remain competitive, the parties must work together to find workable solutions to collective bargaining issues. Remove strike and lockout rights and you remove the incentive for the parties to deal with issues important to the future of the industry.

That is what Motions Nos. 22 and 23 would do. I urge all members to reject them.

Our government will continue to support our western grain producers. Bill C-4 gives our producers continuous support and the freedom to decide their own future. This bill will support these very valuable producers.

Division No. 137Government Orders

1 p.m.


Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I was not going to rise to speak to this group of motions, but because of what I am hearing from the two sides I would like to comment on Motion No. 18 in Group 6. As I understand this motion, a strike would not be allowed or would be ended if economic hardship could be demonstrated.

I question how anybody could be that painfully naive about labour relations to put forward a motion that would call for a strike to cease if there was economic hardship demonstrated. What is the purpose of withholding services if not to peacefully apply some kind of economic pressure on the other party? That is the very nature of withholding services, to try to motivate somebody to your way of thinking. There is a level of naivety there. I hope it is naivety and not just plain ignorance.

We are speaking against the idea that this motion should even be entertained. Anybody who has some labour relations background in this House would see through that immediately and would not give it the time of day.

The people who are putting this package forward should remember that Bill C-19 was born out of a truly co-operative consultative process which was almost an experiment. It was almost a pilot project on how to amend labour legislation. Labour and management worked together for more than two years to try to find the balance they were seeking, the balance recommended by the Sims task force. They have done an admirable job. Many of the motions we are dealing with today would tend to upset that delicate balance and would jeopardize the success of the whole process.

There are other tripartite models of labour, management and government working together around the world. Those countries are moving forward as nations and are doing a good job of elevating the standards of the living conditions of the people they represent. Those countries have realized that it has to be a tripartite model. The hostility and the adversarial qualities that we sense from the tone of some of the Reform Party motions will only hold us back as a nation. There is no future in that kind of thing, with one party determined to stamp out the other. Instead the more civilized model is the three parties working together and moving forward.

What we are hearing from the Reform Party, in many of the motions it is putting forward, is a reworked version of the right to work movement. Do we want to go in that direction? We should be cautious. We should look at those places where right to work is a reality before we take that particular road.

North Carolina is a right to work state. Everybody has heard of the Triangle Shirtwaist Company fire in 1913 that founded the whole idea that workplace safety and health is an issue. The whole world agreed that it was too horrible to ever let it happen again. I have news for members. In the right to work state of North Carolina, 20 women died recently in a fire in a chicken processing plant because they chained the doors closed from the outside. They were convinced that these low-waged women were stealing by-products from the chickens, like wing tips, to make soup when they got home.

From 1913 to 1995 we have come the whole circle. With that kind of environment, where there is no worker representation on joint labour-management safety committees, standards quickly erode if we are not diligent about trying to elevate the standards and working conditions. Right to work is a step in the wrong direction in that regard.

Some of the other motions deal with the movement of grain through the west coast ports. This is key and integral to the whole balance I was talking about in Bill C-19. The whole process of Bill C-19 was a trade-off, where none of the parties really came away very satisfied that they got everything they wanted.

We would have liked to have seen a lot tougher anti-scab legislation. Nobody likes to give away the right to strike, the right to peacefully withhold services, and in this case they have not, but in actual fact the grain will keep carrying through.

The positive side of this, the upside and the side that seems to be lost on the Reform Party, is that there are about 130,000 Canadian farmers who are anxiously awaiting the speedy passage of this legislation so they can feel secure that their crops this year will not be interrupted by any kind of a dispute at the west coast ports.

Talk to pool elevator operators, the UGG or the whole agribusiness. They want this bill to go through, and yet we have the Reform Party, largely made up of representatives from western agricultural districts, being an obstacle and a barrier to this very real benefit to the whole prairie agricultural industry. It is a real contradiction. I hope Reform members are thinking this through. As they stand to speak they should be aware that the industry is watching these debates very carefully. I am sure they are scratching their heads wondering right now how they can see fit to justify being a barrier to the speedy passage of this particular bill.

We know that the favourite right-wing think tank of the Reform Party is the Fraser Institute. The Fraser Institute, that tax deductible, right-wing melting pot for all their ideas, is pushing the idea of right to work. Donated copies of the book promoting right to work as the answer for labour relations in the 21st century have arrived in our mailboxes. They are trying to imply that Canada is backwards because we believe in a more progressive labour relations climate.

The Fraser Institute and the Reform Party are going down a dangerous road as they advocate this particular labour relations environment. It is the role of labour and the role of governments to provide the legislative environment in which unions can do their job to elevate the standards of wages and working conditions for the people they represent. It is a matter of the redistribution of wealth. It is a matter of spreading the wealth of this great nation among the working people. Anything that we do to hold that back does not move us forward in any way at all. It is a myth.

The fact is that fair wages benefit the whole community. I do not see what it is about that concept that bothers the Reform Party, but it seems bound and determined to reduce the ability of unions to do their job in elevating the standards of the community. Holding us back in that regard does not help anybody.

It is middle-class people with money in their pockets who can go out, purchase things and get the economy moving. Screwing them down in terms of wages does not benefit anybody. That is the empirical evidence. The statistics of all the right to work states in the United States, the 21 right to work states, show that some of them have no minimum wage. All of them have a lower than average industrial wage. They have worse health and safety legislation. They even have a higher infant mortality rate and all the predictable things one would see in the low-income category.

We believe in our caucus that society does not move forward unless we all move forward together. The motions that are being put forward by the Reform Party are completely the opposite of that point of view.

Division No. 137Government Orders

1:05 p.m.


Garry Breitkreuz Reform Yorkton—Melville, SK

Mr. Speaker, before I begin my speech I have to make a comment on some of the last things that have been said and some of the previous speeches just before me.

I cannot believe what I am hearing. The member who has just spoken, as others, talked in a very rational, calm tone, saying things that are totally false and we cannot leave those things unchallenged in this House.

He referred to us as being naive and not thinking through things. I would challenge him to think through some of these things himself.

They talk about defending workers, that this is their mandate and so on. Some of the amendments that we have put forward would in fact protect workers better. They would help protect the economy. When we are protecting the economy we are doing what is best for workers. The NDP ought to think that through.

Who suffers most when we destroy the economy in certain areas? Of course it is the worker. What the NDP does not realize is that innocent third parties are being hurt and hurt severely by what is happening at the ports.

The member who just spoke said that we do not represent farmers and have not talked to them. I have talked to farmers and I have spent a lot of time with them. They have talked to me about this legislation. That is why we have proposed some of these amendments. For example, we have an amendment here that would include other commodities that farmers produce in this legislation.

The members display their lack of knowledge of the farm economy. Farmers do not just grow seeds and grains. They produce other things that, when shipped, look almost like seeds but will not be treated the same in this bill. For example, they produce alfalfa pellets which are simply dry little pellets that are made from alfalfa grass. Why should that be treated any differently than wheat, barley or canola?

The members have not addressed this. They have read these prepared speeches from the bureaucrats without realizing that they do not address the problem that we have come to address.

We are speaking on behalf of farmers. Why should we divide the agricultural community as this legislation does? It is totally unfair.

Another thing that the government keeps saying over and over is that Reform is holding up the bill. Look at the reason we are pushing for these changes. It is the lack of democracy in this House that forces us to try to get the attention of the government as to the importance of these amendments. It just does not listen.

This bill has a good aim. There are some very good things in it. But if it can be strengthened, why not strengthen it? It makes no sense to simply pass this bill through the House and not consider some of the very reasoned and good amendments that we have put forward.

I challenge the government not to just listen to us. I challenge the NDP. I challenge the Bloc. Do not just listen to what we are saying. I believe if they talk to Canadians generally they will find that we have very strong support across the entire spectrum for these amendments. I challenge the government to find out the same thing that we have found out, which is, this is what people want. We need to return to a real balance in labour legislation.

I would like now to begin my speech. That was simply in reply to some of the things that were said previously which are totally unfair.

The whole debate today was led off by the House leader for the Liberal Party. I would like to read a quotation. “I am shocked. This is terrible. This time we are talking about a major piece of legislation. Shame on those Tories across the way”. Do you know who said that, Mr. Speaker? It was the very person who introduced the motion to invoke time allocation upon this bill. It was the government House leader.

I will read another quotation. “It displays the utter disdain with which this government treats the Canadian people”. That was said by the foreign affairs minister when he sat on this side of the House in opposition.

Here is another quotation. “This is not the way to run parliament. This is abuse of the process in this House”. I will not tell you, Mr. Speaker, who said it, but it was a highly esteemed member of the government. I do not want to embarrass anybody in this House at the present time.

Division No. 137Government Orders

1:10 p.m.

An hon. member

We want to hear it.

Division No. 137Government Orders

1:10 p.m.

An hon. member


Division No. 137Government Orders

1:10 p.m.


Garry Breitkreuz Reform Yorkton—Melville, SK

Maybe at a later time, but not at this time. I respect the Chair.

Grain is given a preferential treatment. We are asking for equality. In my riding alfalfa producers are really protesting this inequity. I hope the government will reconsider and allow its members at least a free vote on this. If there is going to be any reform or any freeing up of this parliament the government has to lead in reforming and democratizing the House. We are only one small voice in this regard.

One of the things that has been said is that we should not be singling out just grain. There are many other commodities that deserve equal protection. We need to protect the national economy. We have already made that point.

The grain producers and many other commodity shippers have been held hostage by the labour disputes at the west coast. Third parties that have no control are greatly harmed.

We have had a discussion in the House in the last couple of weeks on hepatitis C and the victims who have been harmed. Third parties were harmed and they had no control over the circumstances. This is not in the same category but here is a third party being harmed by a situation over which it has no control, that being strikes at our ports. It is blatantly unfair to allow that to continue. I hear the NDP, the Liberals and the Bloc defending this but it is basically most unfair.

If there is a better solution such as final offer selection arbitration why not consider that? It has worked and it has worked very effectively. It would prevent some of the great harm that is being done to the third parties that suffer because of the strikes that take place. It would be protection for the economy. There is a balance here. It is not just the strike but also the lockouts so it helps both sides.

It is in the interest of all Canadians that we have reliable access to essential services. If we do not what is going to happen? We are going to lose some of the jobs to our competitors such as the United States. We would like to keep employment within our borders. We need to establish and maintain what we now have and that is a reputable world class export system. We need to continue to maintain that.

Canada has had this transportation and communications infrastructure and many of these things will gradually have to be scaled back if we allow these strikes and lockouts to continue. The disruption in day to day operations of vital transportation sectors would inhibit the national economy from functioning.

The second group of motions that we would ask the government to support also deals with proposing an extension to include all the other commodities. I have mentioned one which I am very familiar with and that is alfalfa pellets and alfalfa products. There is no reason why that cannot be included in this.

I do not know if members realize that the port of Vancouver alone in 1960—I think that is the right date—had $30 billion in exports. Only $4 billion of that is grain. The government is dividing up and giving special treatment to a certain sector and we have no problem. We appreciate the fact that grain producers will have this protection but it should be extended to all. That is why we cannot accept what the government has done and so have proposed the amendments. Grain is only about 20% of the commodities that are shipped to the west coast.

Division No. 137Government Orders

1:15 p.m.


Deepak Obhrai Reform Calgary East, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak on Bill C-19 which seeks to amend the Canada Labour Code.

I listen to debate from across the floor and from members from the other party accusing the Reform of being anti-worker, holding farmers hostage and trying to make the middle class rich. I ask myself what is the debate leading to.

Labour harmony is very crucial to the economic prosperity of Canada. That goes for the workers, the employers and management. Economic prosperity is a partnership between the workers, management and those who run the businesses. Any time we create an imbalance going toward one right against the other then we are creating a situation where in the long run it affects all Canadians.

When my hon. colleague talks about the Reform Party spending time working for the middle class, I would like to tell him that the majority of the middle class are workers for whom he is saying he is fighting for their rights. I do not know whose rights he is fighting for but he seems to write off the middle class. I would like to remind the member that it is the middle class people who are also the workers of this nation.

As my colleague said, we are trying to create a fair balance, a balance in the rights of the workers and the rights of the persons who have put the time, effort and sweat into running the business. We cannot have one held hostage at the expense of the other. Both are partners in the economic prosperity.

The Reform Party in general supports many of the good intentions in this bill. Like my colleague said, all we are trying to do is strengthen the bill. We are not taking anybody's right away despite the rhetoric that comes from the other side.

My colleague quoted what members on the other side said when they were on this side. As a new member of parliament it makes me agree with Canadians who say politicians do not speak the truth. These are the members who said one thing on closures while on this side of the House and another thing on closures on the other side. This is not a good example for upcoming politicians in this country.

The Reform Party has brought in Motions Nos. 18 and 20 which deal with the national economy as a whole. The federal government has approximately 10% of the workforce under its jurisdiction. That 10% is working in an environment providing service to all Canadians which is very important and crucial. In some of the legislation it gives them a monopoly. Therefore these industries have a very serious potential of harming all Canadians.

When we look at this bill in terms of these motions that is what we are talking about. It is wrong to say we are trying to hold workers hostage. We are just trying to say that we should not hold Canadians hostage. As such, my colleagues have brought in amendments that are trying to address that.

We agree that the continuation of service must carry on if there is a danger to public health and safety. That is paramount and critically important. However, we also feel that the national economy needs to be protected but not by taking away the rights of the workers as was said on the other side. We want to create a balance to ensure that services go on and we do not hold the Canadian public hostage. Being a member of the union as well as working in the business sector, I feel everything needs to have a balance. I have had experience both in strikes and running a business. I can see that antagonistic attitudes, egos and all these things get in the way and create a situation that harms the Canadian public.

Motions Nos. 22 and 23 deal with the transportation of grain. Once the grain reaches the port it can be shipped out. There are flaws in this and it is absolutely ludicrous for anyone to say that we are holding farmers hostage. We are not. This is absolute rubbish.

What we and the farmers are saying is that their crops are very important. Grain must be shipped but so should the other crops. This is crucially important for our economy.

We cannot carry on. It is quite interesting, as my colleague across the way indicated, that grain is crucially important for the economy. Grain is crucially important for Canada's international commitments. I agree 100% that it is crucial but why are they speaking about only one aspect? There are all the other aspects which make up the whole picture. Members across can pick up on things that suit them and present their arguments. This does not give the whole picture.

If we think it is critically important for the nation and need to address it in a bill then let us address the whole issue, let us address the whole picture. All farmers are equally important. They have international commitments. They have international obligations to meet.

We support the grain farmers and we think the intent of that small portion is fine but we are asking that they all be included to give a whole picture.

I feel that in supporting these amendments I am not going against the wishes of workers. I am not being anti-worker. All I am saying is let us look at the whole picture. Both workers and management have an equal role to play and both are partners. Therefore this should not be viewed as anti-worker legislation but something to make the whole picture.

Business Of The HouseGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.


Marlene Catterall Liberal Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

Mr. Speaker, there have been discussions among all parties and with the member for Kamloops concerning the taking of the division on Motion M-75.

I believe you would find consent for the following motion:

That at the conclusion of today's debate on M-75, all questions necessary to dispose of the said motion shall be deemed put, a recorded division deemed requested and deferred until Tuesday, May 26, 1998 at the expiry of the time provided for Government Orders.

(Motion agreed to)

The House resumed consideration of 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 as reported (with amendment) from the committee; and of Motions Nos. 18, 20, 22 and 23.

Canada Labour CodeGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.


John Cummins Reform Delta—South Richmond, BC

Mr. Speaker, today I would like to address issues relating to Bill C-19 and the Canada Labour Code. I want to bring to the attention of the House my concerns both as to what the government has failed to include in the bill as well as the problems with proposed amendments to the labour code.

Let me first address an incident where the Canada Labour Code failed to protect the health and safety of a federal government employee and ought to be strengthened. While the focus of Bill C-19 is on collective bargaining, the labour code itself deals with the health and safety of federal government employees.

Canadians have a right to expect their government to be a model employer that takes great care to see that its employees are not unnecessarily put in life threatening situations. Yet the facts suggest that the government has often been careless with the lives of its employees. The labour code is the first line of defence of an employee of the federal government yet it often fails them. Let me give a specific example.

Dean Miller was a fisheries officer in Prince Rupert. He was required to take white water survival training in the Kitimat River on September 18, 1996. Dean died of a heart attack that day. He was forced to take a course that he probably did not need and definitely should not have been asked to participate in. Dean was a supervisor who worked in an office in Prince Rupert. There was no obvious reason for him to be ordered to take a rigorous white water survival course; his job never required it. Dean had a pacemaker and a serious heart condition. He never should have been forced to take such a course.

The law requires that federal employees taking rigorous and demanding survival courses first be approved as medically fit by the Department of Health. Dean was never approved as medically fit by the regional medical officer of the Department of Health. More than likely if such a medical test had been done, Dean would have been excluded from that course. Perhaps he would have been alive today. He certainly would not have died in the Kitimat River.

The minimal requirements of the labour code were never enforced. Dean had not neglected his health or his wife and family. He had a check-up only months before his death. The medical report from that check-up stated: “His fatigue has continued. In fact over the last four to five years it may be worse. He finds that when he exercises he gets tired with some breathlessness”. Nevertheless Dean took the course because he believed it would protect his job and thus his family.

After Dean's death the department of human resources stepped in and shut down the mandatory white water survival course under authority of section 145 of part II of the code. A directive was issued to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans that stated:

On September 18, 1996 the undersigned safety officer conducted an investigation into the fatality of Dean Miller on the Kitimat River, a workplace operated by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans—being an employer subject to the Canada Labour Code.

The said safety officer considers that a condition exists that constitutes a danger to an employee while at work.

Employees are participating in a swift water rescue—course without a risk evaluation having been conducted or physical fitness ability (medical condition) of employees having been conducted contrary to section 124 [of the code].

It is now clear that DFO had been failing to follow the requirements of the Canada Labour Code for years. No real action has been taken against those who required Dean Miller to take this rigorous survival course even though he had a pacemaker and a serious heart condition. Dean died while on the mandatory course.

Thankfully a safety officer acting under the Canada Labour Code shut down the program, but only after Dean died. No action was ever taken against the DFO officials who ordered Dean to take the safety course. The only person who has suffered was the DFO safety officer. He was concerned by the lax attitude to employee safety in his own department. He was forced out of the department for speaking out on the death of Dean Miller.

I brought Dean's death to the attention of the minister of human resources on April 25, 1997. I asked that a review of the procedures be undertaken that required a fisheries officer with a very serious pre-existing medical condition to take a white water survival course and for a copy of such a review when it was completed. I have never received a satisfactory reply. I ask again today for a reply from the minister on the death of Dean Miller.

Let me now turn to the amendments to the code contained in Bill C-19. Section 87.7 has been of concern to employers in British Columbia. It is said that section 87.7 has a laudable objective: to keep prairie grain moving to the markets. I think we all agree with that point.

I suspect the real intention of the bill though is to make life easier for the Minister of Labour and his staff. They claim it is too much bother to deal with disputes that tie up the shipment of grain. If the shipment of grain is too difficult for the minister, then let him step aside.

B.C. industry believes that section 87.7 is a mistake. It points out that Mr. Justice Estey has been asked to report to the government on grain transportation and handling. It suggests that it is premature to take this action prior to the Estey commission even having completed its report.

Industry in my province believes that section 87.7 may lengthen labour disputes. It believes that striking employees may have less incentive to bargain.

The B.C. economy depends on trade. Forest products and coal are no less important to the B.C. economy than grain is to the prairies. If this provision has the effect of prolonging industrial disputes in British Columbia, then it is a mistake. If it makes our ports less competitive with their American counterparts, it is a mistake.

There are two ports in Delta—South Richmond, the Delta port at Roberts Bank and the Fraser port facility. I have yet to hear from any user of either that section 87.7 will advance the ports in Delta—South Richmond.

It has been said that the grain provision is counterproductive and fundamentally at cross purposes with the government's widely supported efforts on the international trade file.

It is unreasonable and unacceptable that prairie grain shipments will have access to British Columbia ports during a strike, while B.C. based exports will not.

Industry leaders have outlined a number of negative consequences and equity considerations raised by section 87.7. They point out that commodity producers in the forestry, mining, petrochemical, energy and manufacturing industries will not be able to export or import goods through a B.C. port affected by a strike, yet grain exports would continue.

Allowing grain exports to continue during a strike will likely prolong and not shorten work stoppages as employees providing services to grain vessels will have less incentive to settle.

There is considerable potential for transportation handling business usually undertaken by Canadian ports and railways to be lost as firms re-route their products and services through the U.S. Many commodities currently handled at west coast port facilities can be transferred to facilities in Seattle or Tacoma, Washington, or Portland, Oregon. Once business is lost, experience shows it is hard to get it back.

I have yet to hear any business or spokesman for port employees in my province requesting this provision or speaking convincingly in support of it.

On April 27 the British Columbia Employers Association asked the Minister of Labour for relief from section 87.7. It said:

We believe that—the discriminatory grain provisions unnecessarily threaten Canada's economy by jeopardizing Canada's reputation as a reliable importer and exporter of commodities to world markets. The impact on the western economy will be devastating.

The Business Council of British Columbia has also asked the Minister of Labour for relief. It states:

As you know from your consultation with western stakeholders as well as from numerous presentations made by western industries and associations to the Standing Committee on Human Resources Development, the special grain provisions contained in section 87.7—pose a serious threat to the competitiveness of west coast ports and the economy of western Canada as a whole—non-grain commodities represent up to 87% of the total dollar value of the cargo moved through the port of Vancouver alone—these commodities may remain stagnant in the event of an extended strike indirectly subsidized by the mandatory movement of grain.

Given the tenuous position of the current western economy as a result of the drop in world oil prices and the Asia crisis, such a threat to future economic stability could not come at a worse time.

Weyerhaeuser Canada, a Vancouver based company, believes section 87.7 needlessly threatens the forestry sector and potentially the communities of western Canada that depend on exports and imports through the ports.

In conclusion, as a member of this House from British Columbia and having two major ports in my riding, I feel it is important that these matters and concerns be brought to the attention of this House and that the government take note.

Canada Labour CodeGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.


John Duncan Reform Vancouver Island North, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak on the Group No. 6 amendments to Bill C-19. From the debate we have heard it appears that whenever one challenges the established order, one runs the risk of being called names. Symbolically what has transpired is that other parties in the House have been calling Reform names on this issue which is most unfortunate.

Forty per cent of British Columbia's gross domestic product comes from exports. The real question here is how to optimize society's benefits and at the same time create an enlightened framework for labour-management negotiations in those areas of federal jurisdiction. Just so people do not get confused on this issue, we are talking about a small portion of Canada's workforce which is associated with federal areas of jurisdiction.

I have a special place in my export file for forest products. I do that because the products from our forests are Canada's largest net export. This is something which is overlooked by virtually every walk of life in this country, particularly by politicians and our own bureaucracy. They are not our highest value export but we import almost no forest products. Having spent 20 years working in this business prior to my coming to the House of Commons, I know this has always been a bone of contention. It is overlooked. In any national strategy it is important to look at the net impacts of many of our exports.

The automotive trade represents 26% of our exports which is wonderful and marvellous and does a lot of great things, but we have a lot of automotive imports as well. It is a very different issue and a different strategy should apply.

With this set of amendments Reform is saying that we need to extend protection to all commodities. We cannot selectively experiment with protecting one group or commodity. To do so puts us in a perilous position. It also distorts the collective bargaining process. It tends to distort everything. Other members of my caucus have talked about the employer groups, the producer groups, the manufacturer groups, the exporters, all west coast based and all very concerned that anything other than equal treatment for commodities will lead to all kinds of difficulties.

In my view any treatment other than equal treatment for all commodities will lead to a need for constant government supervision, constant government intrusion and discriminatory treatment which will lead us who knows where. We will be monkeying with this legislation forever. We will be monkeying with the whole collective bargaining process. This is not good news at all.

One of our backgrounders describes this as an uncontrolled experiment being conducted by the federal government. There is an ongoing commission to review grain handling and the transportation system. It is reviewing that whole business in terms of labour relations. It is the Estey commission. That commission will not report until the end of this year.

In the meantime none of the legislation is based on anything substantive or concrete. It simply is not fact based. To justify it on the basis that it is temporary when it is so arbitrarily discriminatory and targeted makes no logical sense. The only conclusion that one can come to is that there must either be some special interest at work or some collective feeling that somehow this will make someone's life easier in this jurisdiction. Surely those are the wrong reasons to be doing what we are doing.

There has also been a suggestion that by somehow selectively targeting provisions in the act to only apply to grain will prevent labour disputes from escalating because grain can no longer be used as the commodity that will be at risk. That is also illogical. The same argument could be used for all other excluded commodities. As we know forest products represent by far the largest dollar value commodity moved through Canadian west coast ports.

We can identify no one who actually wants the legislation other than the people who created it and they are rather anonymous. We also know there is a split in cabinet over it. Once again we have the spectre of the west coast being burdened with a piece of legislation to its detriment by a non-west coast based group. This certainly does nothing to pull the country together.

We also seem to have a non-recognition of the marketplace serviced by the port of Vancouver. For example, the Asian market is the marketplace in the world that places the highest premium on predictability and timely delivery. That is a crucial consideration. The bill must address that issue and it must address it on a very even handed basis.

I will get back to softwood lumber. We have a circumstance where the government's posture on the Canada-U.S. softwood lumber agreement is that the agreement gives greater predictability for Canadian exporters that are planning to ship softwood lumber to the United States. There are thousands of British Columbians out of work because of that softwood lumber agreement. It is one more example of how the west coast cannot seem to permeate the bureaucracy that creates west coast based legislation.

Canada Labour CodeGovernment Orders

May 12th, 1998 / 1:50 p.m.


Bryon Wilfert Liberal Oak Ridges, ON

Mr. Speaker, the official opposition is trying to do in the House what it failed to do in the committee, that is actually to take a constructive part in the debate other than the filibuster we witnessed the other week.

Let us make clear what it is trying to do. It is nothing less than to remove strike and lockout rights from employees and employers subject to the Canada Labour Code.

Motions Nos. 18 and 20 would add hardship to the national economy as a criterion for maintenance of service requirements while Motions Nos. 22 and 23 would prohibit all strikes and lockouts in the ports.

Members of the official opposition have stated that they support collective bargaining and the right of workers to what they call strike peacefully. What does strike peacefully mean? For most it means a work stoppage free of violence, but for the official opposition it would appear to mean that a work stoppage has no economic impact.

This is a complete contradiction. The entire purpose of a strike or lockout is to impose economic sanctions in order to convince the other party to agree to terms and conditions of a collective agreement.

In democratic countries such as ours the right of workers to organize and begin collective bargaining is a fundamental right. This right is recognized in the international bill of human rights and in International Labour Organization conventions to which Canada is a signatory.

In democratic countries the right to strike or lockout by private sector parties is limited only to the extent necessary to protect public health and safety. That is exactly what Bill C-19 proposes. There is no precedent in Canada to my knowledge for removing the strike and lockout rights from private sector parties for economic reasons.

Federally regulated employers and unions that negotiate under the Canada Labour Code specifically told the Sims task force—and I know the opposition remembers the Sims task force because we talked about it ad infinitum during the discussions—that they did not want their lockout and strike provisions removed. They did not want their disputes subject to binding third party determinations.

The federally regulated employers, transportation and communications, FETCO, which represents most major employers subject to the code said:

We do not want statutory authority to be given to the government to impose arbitration, alternative dispute mechanism, or unilaterally determine some of the provisions of the collective agreement itself.

The parties subject to the code agree that the appropriate criteria for maintenance of service requirements is protection of public health and safety.

On this point the Business Council of British Columbia told the task force:

The inclusion of a provision within the Canada Labour Code for designating “essential services” should be confined to matters deemed to be essential to the protection and maintenance of “public safety and health”.

The Sims task force did not recommend the removal of strike and lockout rights from any group of employees or any employer subject to the code. The vast majority of parties subject to the code do not support the removal of strike and lockout rights.

I urge members of the House not to support these amendments.

Canada Labour CodeGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.


Jay Hill Reform Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is unfortunate that every time I get up to speak to important bills it is just before question period. We know that once again my presentation will undoubtedly be interrupted by that frivolous use of an hour of House time.

It is a pleasure to rise today to speak once again to Bill C-19, the labour legislation that is before the House, and specifically to the Group No. 6 amendments.

Motions Nos. 18 and 20 by the official opposition deal with the fact that we are concerned the only provisions for preventing rail or shipping disruptions at the Vancouver port deal specifically with grain.

One might wonder why as the agriculture critic of the official opposition and a grain farmer for close to 20 years in the real world I would be speaking to expand it and why I would not be speaking in favour of this amendment.

While I do favour the fact that it is a small step in the right direction to have a process in place to ensure that the grain continues to flow through the ports, to meet our international commitments and to ultimately reach our foreign customers, the fact remains that it is specific to one commodity. I do not think even farmers would feel that is fair. There are many agricultural commodities other than grain that we ship abroad and on which we have important commitments to our foreign customers. It is very important that those commodities reach our customers.

One can readily see that while a lot of farmers including many in my riding, I am sure, support the particular clause in the legislation they are concerned with fairness and equity. They wonder why they are singled out. There has certainly been a history of rail and shipping disruptions at the ports that have cost the country and specifically farmers very dearly in the past. It has cost them hundreds of thousands of dollars in demurrage charges as ships sit waiting to be loaded. That is ultimately reflected in the final payment that farmers receive from the Canadian Wheat Board.

As a young farmer trying to eke out an existence in the Peace River country I too from time to time was very angry when I would view the ships waiting in the harbour for days and weeks. I knew the mounting demurrage charges. I wanted to jump in my pick-up truck, tear off the 1,000 miles south to Vancouver and load the ships myself. I know many other young and older farmers felt the same way. They would have liked to have just gone down and loaded the bloody grain themselves rather than see it sitting on the wharf and not being shipped.

I see my time is up so I will continue after question period.

Canada Labour CodeGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

The Speaker

The member still has about six and half minutes and will be recognized right after question period.

Canada World YouthStatements By Members

1:55 p.m.


Janko Peric Liberal Cambridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, since 1971 Canada World Youth has been organizing the international exchange programs fostering leadership skills, cross cultural learning and social justice both locally and globally.

Funded in part by CIDA some 22,000 young people have taken part in the program which provides hands on work experience and participation in community and international development.

This year Jordan Hancey, a university student from my riding of Cambridge, has been chosen to take part in the Alberta-Poland exchange program.

I congratulate Jordan on his selection and I wish him every success as he prepares to represent Canada on this important cultural exchange.

Parkdale Clean-Up DayStatements By Members

1:55 p.m.


Sarmite Bulte Liberal Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, on Saturday, May 9, Parkdale Collegiate Institute held is fourth annual community clean-up day in Parkdale.

First, I thank and congratulate the 200 volunteers who participated in that day. I also mention the strong support given to the clean-up day by the Parkdale Liberty Economic Development Committee, the Parkdale Village BIA, as well as the other community based groups that contributed so much to Saturday's success.

In particular I underline the hard work and tremendous community spirit of two of Parkdale Collegiate's students, Rahel Beigel and Kevin Brijlal, who were the student co-ordinators for this year's event.

The benefits of a community clean-up day are plain to see. A more attractive neighbourhood encourages people to spend their time there and allows businesses to flourish but, more important, such activity also fosters a true sense of belonging. Safe and clean communities are prosperous communities, and prosperous communities are safe and clean communities.

It is a pleasure to salute such community spirit and I thank them all for their hard work.

CrtcStatements By Members

2 p.m.


Jim Abbott Reform Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Mr. Speaker, when the heritage minister promotes Canadiana she really goes Hollywood.

The minister's CRTC licenses network and specialty TV channels mandating Canadian content. This drives a high demand for production but the dollars and cents simply do not add up to the commercial level.

As a result the minister directs spending of $200 million to pay for the production of TV shows. So we have $200 million a year dispensed through a nightmare of people with sleeping bags and tents waiting outside bureaucrats' offices trying to be first come first served.

The minister presides over a demeaning joke and it is getting worse.

The bureaucracy has already taken a $20 million advance on next year's funding. Informed speculation says Canadians may be paying up to $600 million a year if the minister gets her way. And who asked the taxpayer? Nobody.

Do they really want to pay for her fund? We demand a mandate review of the CRTC and its Canadian content rulings.

Member For LongueuilStatements By Members

2 p.m.


Guy St-Julien Liberal Abitibi, QC

Mr. Speaker, on June 3, 1993, the Bloc Quebecois refused to discuss the topic of my speech on paying a salary for women and men who stay at home.

Today, the Bloc Quebecois member for Longueuil is showing that she did not understand anything in my speech of April 28, 1998, and my motion of October 7, 1997, which read “That, in the opinion of this House, the government should legislate to pay a salary to the mothers and fathers who stay at home to raise their children”. The hon. member should understand my whole speech, not just 23 words out of 1,500.

Mothers belong to one of two groups: those who work outside the home and those who stay at home. Today, I figured out the strategy of the Bloc Quebecois member for Longueuil: she wants to stay in the third group.

Police WeekStatements By Members

2 p.m.


Lynn Myers Liberal Waterloo—Wellington, ON

Mr. Speaker, this is Police Week in Canada. It is an opportunity for all Canadians to show our gratitude and appreciation for the outstanding work performed day in and day out by our police and peace officers across the country.

This year in my riding of Waterloo—Wellington Police Week will be celebrated as follows:

there will be police displays in malls;

there will be seminars on various crime prevention tips and on personal safety;

there will be media announcements saluting individual officers;

there will be tours of police facilities; and

finally, there will be an awards night to recognize members of the community who assisted police in some very significant way.

On behalf of all residents of Waterloo-Wellington and on behalf of all Canadians, I thank all police for working so hard to make our communities the great places they are. Canadians respect them and Canadians salute them.

AgricultureStatements By Members

2 p.m.


Howard Hilstrom Reform Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Mr. Speaker, today I would like to commend the many beef cattle farmers and ranchers in every province of Canada.

I commend them for supplying a safe, healthy, nutritious, convenient product at a very affordable price.

I commend them for the large positive impact they have on the Canadian economy. Over 54% of Canadian beef production is exported to countries around the world, earning cash to be used to create a better Canada.

I commend them for the thousands of direct and indirect jobs they create for Canadians in rural and urban areas.

I commend them for their excellent stewardship of the land they use. Cattle ranchers were saving endangered species through habitat preservation and improvement long before it became the in thing to do.

I commend the men, women and children who operate as a family unit in one of the most healthy, wonderful lifestyles known to mankind.

Mr. Speaker, I would simply ask you and millions of other Canadians at your next beef barbeque to stop for a moment and give thanks to these farmers and ranchers. They truly are real Canadians.

TradeStatements By Members

2 p.m.


John Maloney Liberal Erie—Lincoln, ON

Mr. Speaker, as we rush toward the 21st century trade barriers are being reduced to enhance commerce between nations.

In recent discussions with a constituent I became intrigued with the idea of establishing a centralized resource centre for importers and exporters, an international trade information centre.

This is an opportunity for our government to enter the 21st century as innovators in trade by providing one stop shopping for importers and exporters alike to attend information seminars tailor made to their needs, to have information material at their fingertips and knowledgeable personnel a simple phone call away.

As we continue to march into the shrinking world of a global economy it is apparent that such a resource centre would be a much needed facility not only for our traders but also for those who wish to trade with us.

The port of Fort Erie in my riding of Erie-Lincoln is adjacent to the U.S. border at Buffalo, New York, and is one of the busiest land crossings in the country. As new and renewed bridge infrastructure is being undertaken there is great potential in Fort Erie to become the highest volume port in the country.

Fort Erie would be an ideal location for an international trade information centre.

Student Summer EmploymentStatements By Members

2 p.m.


Karen Redman Liberal Kitchener Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, this Friday I will participate in the opening of a student employment centre in Kitchener.

Each year at this time we are faced with the struggle of students looking for summer jobs. As a mother of four I know this yearly ritual very well.

This government has made great progress not only in creating youth employment programs but also in providing access to information about programs available both to students and prospective employers throughout the Internet.

Experience Canada, Young Canada Works, SchoolNet Youth Employment, Youth Internships Canada, Summer Career Placements, Youth Info Line and Youth Info Site are all programs and services targeted at assisting students in finding summer jobs and breaking the cycle of no job, no experience.

I encourage all young Canadians to look into these initiatives. I encourage all employers to hire a student this summer, providing them with valuable experience that will last them a lifetime.

Surrey Youth Recognition AwardsStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.


Chuck Cadman Reform Surrey North, BC

Mr. Speaker, on May 2 I had the pleasure of attending the third annual City of Surrey Youth Recognition Awards. On behalf of all of us in this place I wish to congratulate the following: Daniel Chapman, Armand Dhaliwal, Jesse Dosanjh, Amanda Ellestad, Marissa Hadland, Mary Illical, Todd Lajeunesse, Rachna Singh and Elizabeth Thampy.

From Tamanawis Secondary School I congratulate students: Meghan Anderssen, Amanda Cheung, Katie Henderson, Stephanie Kingdon, Laura MacKay, Ranjiv Manak, Reggie Sanantonio, Sean Vandergronden and Dawn Young.

From Queen Elizabeth Secondary School I congratulate students: Sueanne Amisola, Erin Ashenhurst, Sarah Cathey, Dominique Chasse, Sarah Clark, Jennie Cline, Anshin Chu, Jennifer Derton, Johnny Faria, Brent Fraser, Gagandeep Luddu, Laura Maltman, Jennifer Neher, Kevin Redden and Joseph Siembida.

My apologies for any mispronunciations.

These young people of Surrey represent the vast majority of Canadian youth who truly are making a difference.