House of Commons Hansard #107 of the 36th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was right.


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10 a.m.

Etobicoke Centre Ontario


Allan Rock Liberalfor the Minister of Labour

moved 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 third time and passed.

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10 a.m.

Guelph—Wellington Ontario


Brenda Chamberlain LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Labour

Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to rise in the House to begin our final debate on Bill C-19. We have come nearly full circle in our efforts to modernize Part I of the Canada Labour Code. Perhaps a more accurate description would be that it has been a long and winding road.

By now all members of the House will know that this road has been marked by extensive consultation. There were numerous written and oral submissions made to the Sims task force. The labour management consensus group wrestled with the difficult issues we debate today. Parliamentarians debated with much vigour and passion in the last session the provisions of Bill C-66 and those in this session have contributed their ideas and suggestions over the past few weeks in the House of Commons and in committee.

At this time I wish to note that the Minister of Labour is in the House. Generally he would be the one to give this speech. However, he graciously asked me to do this because I have put so much effort into the bill. I would like to pay tribute to him because sometimes we can work a long time on legislation and never get a thank you. I would like to say that the minister is a real gentleman.

All of us have been part of this important debate, so no one will ever accuse us of rushing to judgment in determining labour relations legislation for the 21st century.

Let us cut to the chase and look once again at some of the contentious items in this bill, items that no matter what decision we make about them, we may just have to agree to disagree.

The first has to do with dispute resolution mechanisms. Some opposition members have wanted to push back the clock of history and tradition by insisting that the code has built within it binding arbitration provisions. They believe that this sort of “when in doubt, let us rely on the government to bail them out” mechanism is the best way to go.

We beg to disagree. Any built-in system of compulsory arbitration flies in the face of a century of deliberately developed labour legislation.

It would certainly be a departure from the practice of all Canadian jurisdictions. As a nation we have made commitments to the principles of freedom of association, the right to organize, the right to bargain collectively and the ultimate right to withdraw labour.

I hear the Reform heckling and saying garbage. Unfortunately this bill has been tough because of the Reform. They have not been supportive of the labour movement. Clearly we believe in a democratic process in this country and we will continue to make laws for that purpose.

These commitments are embodied in our membership in the International Labour Organization. The system works very well at least 95% of the time. To be sure, there are some disputes that will go to impasse and unfortunately work stoppages will occur, but this is the motor that drives the system and no one has found a better one. If we move to a situation where lurking in the background there is some standing system of binding arbitration that can be imposed upon the parties, the result can only inhibit the principle of good faith bargaining. Such a broad based weapon that could be imposed at the will of the government of the day has no place in our democratic tradition.

The first deputy minister of labour was a very wise man. He held that post in 1900 and went on to become the minister and then the prime minister. At the beginning of the last century he knew that the government had a role in the collective bargaining process, a minimal one. His view, and I am talking about none other than the Right Hon. William Lyon McKenzie King, was: government intervention if necessary, but not necessarily government intervention.

It was a good view then and it remains so today, which leads us to the next topic of contention, grain handling.

The issue which has perhaps given rise to most comments and correspondence both for and against is the provision in the bill which requires the continuation of services to grain vessels in the event of a work stoppage at our ports. While the provision could apply in all regions, its main application would be on the coast. Those hon. members who have been in this House for some years will be well aware that west coast longshore strikes and lockouts have all too frequently required attention by way of back to work legislation.

In the last 25 years or so nine longshore work stoppages closed our west coast ports and seven of them had to be terminated and settled by legislation.

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 result has been more frequent legislative interventions than in other Canadian ports and industries.

While the parties avoided their responsibilities and passed them over to parliament, they did not avoid damaging the west coast ports' reputation. Frequent work stoppages at the ports severely undermined their reliability in the eyes of international customers. Still, those who opposed the bill's provision, like the Reform Party, made it clear that they fear losing the assurance of legislative intervention. Yet I say that no group in this country has the right to hold parliament to its beck and call. No group should be allowed to do so.

For our part, we remain committed to the basic principles of free collective bargaining, even in sensitive areas such as this. The Sims task force agreed. It examined the issue of essential services. It concluded that, except for reasons of public health and safety, the right to strike or lockout should not be removed from any group of workers or any employer subject to the code.

The compromise that is included in the bill is specific and narrow in its focus. It will enable the longshore industry to retain grain vessel work, but will remove grain from the equation in longshore collective bargaining. It will also reduce disruptions to exports grain movements and discourage reliance on parliament to resolve port work stoppage. At the same time collective bargaining rights will be maintained in both the grain handling and longshore industry.

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. We have refrained from following recommendations which would have divorced the longshore industry from grain handling and otherwise have intruded into its bargaining structures.

This provision has the full support of our western grain farmers and those in the grain industry who, unlike some other resource producers, have no relationship or influence on collective bargaining between the longshore employers and unions. It is hard to understand how Reform cannot be responsive to their farmers, the grassroots of this country. It is hard to understand. We are committed to reviewing the effectiveness of this provision in 1999, following completion of the next round of west coast longshore bargaining.

It is not in my nature to issue dire warnings, but any indications of deliberate sabotage of this provision by the parties would not be looked on kindly. Parliament cannot be consistently required to resolve labour disputes. 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 can and must give up the narcotic of government intervention and solve their own problems.

Committee members also expressed concern about the off-site worker provisions. Debate centred around two fundamental rights. The first is the right to know. In this case, the right of workers to know about unions and the right to bargain collectively are rights they have under the code. Even if they are against joining a union they still have the right to know about organizing activities so they can make informed decisions for themselves. The competing right is the right to privacy, the right to be free from what they might perceive to be harassment. Any reasonable interpretation of the way the provision is currently worded leads to the conclusion that both rights are well protected.

We have gone the extra mile and have accepted the committee's recommendation in its second report. It provides that the board may offer employees the option of refusing to give their name and address to the trade union representative if that is their wish.

The bottom line is that we live in an open society. People have the right to communicate with each other. They have a right to be informed. With all the safeguards now proposed, I believe we now meet the test of providing both their right to privacy and their right to know.

Nowhere was the scope of disagreement so wide among certain opposition members than on the issue of replacement workers. The problem for consensus seeking was that their views were categorically in opposition to one another. Some wanted to allow no replacement workers at all in the case of a strike or lockout. Others wanted no restrictions on their use.

The time has come to deal with the question. We carefully looked at concerns with the earlier wording in the previous version of the bill. The provision now reflects the carefully crafted words of the Sims report. To remind hon. members, the bill specifically prohibits the use of replacement workers for the demonstrative purpose of undermining a union's ability to represent its workers. That would constitute an unfair labour practice and will not be tolerated by the government.

Yet some members from both ends of the question remain totally unconvinced on the answer. If the art of politics is about compromise then the art of labour relations is about balance and, just as important, the perception of balance. Reasonable compromise and balance are what the current provisions represent.

We have heard much in the debate at report stage about the certification provisions of the current code, the measures contained in the bill concerning remedial certification and the view expressed about them being undemocratic. I must disagree.

There is nothing undemocratic about union certification procedures under the Canada Labour Code which are similar to procedures in a number of provincial jurisdictions. Majority support has always been and will remain the basis for union certification. This is clearly stated in section 28 of the code and Bill C-19 does not amend that provision.

As to the question of mandatory votes, the Sims task force recommended that the board's authority to certify a union based on evidence of majority support should remain as should the board's current discretion to hold a representation vote in any case, and that is what Bill C-19 does.

We have incorporated in the bill a provision similar to those in other jurisdictions, and that is remedial certification. Its objective is really quite simple: to change the conduct by those employers who would put a chill on organizing efforts, efforts which could intimidate employees from joining a union. It allows employees the representation they would have achieved but for the employer's misconduct.

In commenting on this issue a University of Toronto professor of law told the standing committee:

The ultimate purpose of the provision—reflects a very fundamental legal principle, and that is no one should profit from their own wrongdoing.

Employers should not get the result they seek as a consequence of violating the code. That seems only fair.

We have debated long and hard on the bill but the time for words is fast coming to a close. Those who are subject to the Canada Labour Code do not want us to delay further. In fact many witnesses appearing before the committee wanted fast action.

Most responsible observers, regardless of any particular concerns they may have about one clause or another, must conclude that Bill C-19 on balance meets the spirit and intent of the Sims task force, and by extension the very intentions of the stakeholders who played such a big role in determining the form of the legislation we are debating today.

We will never agree to every last detail of every last clause and subclause. However I think by any definition of the word we have in Bill C-19 struck a reasonable balance. The time has come to put our words into action.

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10:15 a.m.


Dale Johnston Reform Wetaskiwin, AB

Mr. Speaker, I ask the House for unanimous consent to share my time in such a way that I could allow 10 minutes of my time for my colleague from Prince Albert.

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10:15 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is the hon. member suggesting 30 minutes for him and 10 minutes for his colleague?

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10:15 a.m.


Dale Johnston Reform Wetaskiwin, AB

Yes, Mr. Speaker.

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10:15 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is there unanimous consent for the hon. member for Wetaskiwin to split his time?

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10:15 a.m.

Some hon. members


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10:15 a.m.

Some hon. members


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10:15 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

There is no consent.

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10:15 a.m.


Dale Johnston Reform Wetaskiwin, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am surprised the government does not see clear to allow me to split my time with the member, but so be it.

When I visit my riding school students, they ask me to relate my experiences and activities as a member of parliament to the lessons in democracy they are studying. I am glad to do that, but on occasions like this one I have to ask myself just how democratic the House is. Imposing time allocation on the bill at both report stage and third reading stage is simply not democratic.

Scheduling third reading on the shortest debating day of the week is a great example of a cheap shot. I have so many speakers lined up for this debate that we could spend at least a day on it. I have not been recruiting. People have been knocking on my door and sending notes over saying that they would certainly like to speak to the aspects of the bill. This is our last shot at the bill.

Let us have a look at how time allocation has been used in the House recently. Parliament is about eight months old and time allocation has been imposed five times. This bill had time allocation imposed on it the last time it came through the House known as Bill C-66.

I guess time allocation is getting to be the rule of thumb for a government that does not plan ahead. The last time the bill came to the House there was an impending election. I assume the government thought it had to get this off the order paper and over to the other place before the election was called.

Right now the government has a slim majority. It has a new mandate. It has no intention of calling an election. There is no possibility of this piece of legislation dying on the order paper over the summer, so what in the world is the panic?

There is an old expression that sums it up quite nicely and it goes something like this: lack of planning on your part does not necessarily constitute a crisis on my part.

Why is the government shutting down debate on a bill that would radically change labour relations without giving all members in the House an opportunity to participate in debate? This is an important piece of legislation. The government thought it was important enough as a matter of fact to make it the first item on the order paper of the 36th Parliament. It was the very first piece of business listed.

This piece of legislation languished on the order paper for months. It was November 6, a full eight weeks, before the minister actually introduced the bill in the House of Commons. I guess hon members got into the Christmas spirit early because the bill, which the minister described as important as any bill to be introduced in this session, was not brought forth for second reading until February 19, five months after it first appeared on the order paper.

The minister is correct in his assessment that this is an important piece of legislation. It is very likely the most important one that we will be dealing with this year. That is precisely why many of my colleagues want to speak to the bill. They say that the bill will have a direct impact on labour relations and in their words it will strike a balance. That is where we disagree with the Liberals.

At this point, after having the bill come before the House in the 35th parliament and run into all kinds of trouble in the other place, the government suddenly decided that it must ram the bill through before the summer break so that the Senate will have an opportunity to deal with it. Of course we are coming up to a log jam.

I ask again if members would consider giving a division of time between myself and my colleague from Prince Albert.

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10:20 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Does the House give its consent to divide the time on the basis of 30 minutes to the hon. member and 10 minutes to the hon. member for Prince Albert with no questions or comments? Is that agreed?

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10:20 a.m.

Some hon. members


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Dale Johnston Reform Wetaskiwin, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the House leader of the government. I think there may be some other forces at work as far as opposition to the bill is concerned.

We asked a question in the House about whether the ministers from British Columbia were feeling heat with regard to how their constituents felt about Bill C-19. It was very apparent that the entire British Columbia caucus including the ministers had expressed concerns about the bill. It is obvious they would like to get the bill through the House and out of sight before there is any more dissension in the ranks.

Could it be that some of the Prime Minister's compliant backbenchers were questioning the impact the provisions of Bill C-19 would have on their constituents? I really think that is the case.

Having talked about the undemocratic aspect of time allocation, I will talk about some of the undemocratic aspects of the bill. This bill and its predecessor which died in the last parliament were based on recommendations of the Sims task force in “Seeking a Balance”. Seeking a balance is a great approach to labour relations. I do not think anybody in the House wants to see one side totally outweighed by the other side. The scales in any negotiation should be more or less at a balance so that both parties have equal footing.

Let us examine the bill to see if it attains a balance. I begin with a little history. The code has not been altered in any significant way for the last 25 years. It was indeed an important piece of legislation and it is time to update it.

If we are making changes that will be in effect for another quarter of a century, we had better make sure we get it right and that the balance is there. If we are to open up this area only every quarter of a century we had better make sure we get things pretty well balanced right from the start. From what I have seen the bill is neither fair nor balanced.

Many of the witnesses appearing before the Standing Committee on Human Resources Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities called for changes to the bill. Government members are fond of saying that both labour and management have problems with the bill and therefore, if they both dislike it equally, it must be balanced. That is rather weird logic.

What would they say if both sides said that they agreed with the bill and think it is fair and balanced? I suppose the Liberals would respond by saying that the bill had to go back to the drawing board. This seems like a rather shortsighted approach to the whole problem because it fails to take into account the impact the bill will have on the national economy and on innocent third parties.

Federal jurisdiction in labour matters is interprovincial and international in scope. While less than three-quarters of a million Canadians work in industries covered by the labour code, federally regulated businesses are service oriented and involve the free movement of goods, services, capital and people across Canada. Because of the unique nature of the federal system alternative sources are not readily available. In a lot of cases they are simply not available at all.

The operation of these industry sectors is vital to the daily functioning of the national economy. We have seen that time and time again. As recently as December we had a work stoppage at Canada Post that cost small and medium size business $240 million a day. Over 10,000 people were laid off in mail dependent businesses. Charities that rely on the generosity that emerges during the Christmas period saw their fundraising activities go flat. The government eventually legislated everyone back to work, but after months of arbitration consensus a collective agreement has not been reached.

Bill C-19 will not protect innocent third parties that lose millions of dollars when government run monopolies cease to provide essential mail service. It has nothing to offer those workers at Canada Post who lost salary as a result of the disruption.

Bill C-19 is missing a dispute settlement mechanism that would protect innocent third parties and the national economy from devastation when the services of a monopoly are withdrawn.

That is why the Reform Party supports final offer selection arbitration or some other dispute settlement mechanism that would accomplish the same goals. Our aim is not to tie the hands of labour and management but to give them the tools to resolve their differences. It is definitely not, as the parliamentary secretary suggested in her comments, to be the big brother who makes all the decisions, the government that makes all the decisions for management and labour. Not at all.

I do not know how many times I have tried to explain the way this mechanism works in this House. Later on I will endeavour to explain again. I certainly hope that at some point the government will come to its senses and realize that this is the sort of thing that has to be done in order to protect innocent third parties and the economy of Canada in general, along with the jobs of people who work in all sorts of spin-off industries that rely on federally regulated businesses. Stable labour relations will promote investment and reinvestment.

It is in the interests of labour, management, producers and processors that these disputes be resolved without parliamentary intervention. I emphasize without parliamentary intervention. It is in the interest of all Canadians that we have a reliable access to essential services to keep employment within our borders and to establish and maintain our reputation worldwide as a reliable exporter of goods.

As I have mentioned many times in this House, final offer selection arbitration does not favour one side or the other. How does it work? For the umpteenth time, if and only if the union and the employer cannot make an agreement by the conclusion of the contract, the union and employer would provide the minister with the name of the person they jointly recommend as an arbitrator.

The union and employer would be required to submit to the arbitrator a list of all the matters that they agreed upon at that point and a list of all the matters that were still in dispute. For disputed issues each party would be required to submit their final offer for settlement. The arbitrator then selects either the final offer submitted by the trade union or the final offer submitted by the employer, that is, one or the other. There is no compromise position. The arbitrator's decision would be binding on both parties.

Is this government intervention? No, this is not government intervention. This is a last ditch effort that the parties must go to if they cannot come to an agreement by themselves. We believe that a permanent and fair resolution process must be put in place, removed from the whims of government.

Back to work legislation has become too predictable and management and unions have come to count on it. What does it solve? We legislated the postal people back to work but they still do not have the contract settled. What does it resolve? We got the mail moving, reluctantly I suppose in lots of cases, but we do not have the contract resolved. How is that ever going to be resolved?

Would it not be far better if we did that sort of thing up front rather than wait for a work stoppage that polarizes everybody? Everybody has an opinion on whether or not there should be a work stoppage at the post office or other essential services. Then they are still faced with the dilemma of having to settle this contract. Sure the people are back to work but what has really been settled?

We believe that it is time for permanent legislation that would provide both sides with predictable rules and a timetable by which to negotiate.

The risk to Canadian jobs should be minimized as well. Not only will a significant number of jobs be lost in the export sector if these disputes cannot be resolved, but jobs at the ports will be at severe risk when alternative means to ship goods are utilized. The use of more reliable U.S. west coast ports would result in a loss of cargo and a loss to British Columbia ports.

The costly interruption of government business should not be allowed to occur. While there is a need for regulation by various levels of government, it is unnecessary to put emergency measures in place each time labour and management are unable to reach a satisfactory agreement. Resolving the differences of the two groups can be achieved without interrupting the regular flow of government proceedings.

We are not talking about ending the collective bargaining process but making it work better through final offer selection arbitration. Every time back to work legislation is used, it usurps the collective bargaining process. Final offer selection works best when it is not used at all.

I would like to cite the Manitoba case. On February 10 an hon. member from Winnipeg told the House that this sort of mechanism was used sparingly. In fact the Manitoba relations board received only 97 applications in all the time that there was legislation in that province.

Of those 97 applications, only seven were ever ruled on by a final offer selector or arbitrator. Four went to the union package and three were ruled in the favour of the company. In the vast majority, 72 cases, the application was withdrawn because the parties returned to the bargaining table and found a satisfactory resolution by a more conventional means. This is a perfect example of final offer selection.

If the government does not like final offer selection, if it thinks that it has a bad connotation because it came from the Reform Party, which I suspect it does think that, then let it conjure up its own dispute settlement mechanism and call it whatever it wants. The government can call it the Liberal solution for all I care, as long as it works. A lot of people in Canada depend on these services, not only those people who directly depend on the service but, as I said before, also those people in downstream jobs and spin-off economies.

Any mechanism that causes both parties to work out an agreement through their normal negotiation process is a lot better than any legislation that puts an end to a contentious work stoppage.

Instead of including a dispute settlement mechanism in this bill, the drafters sought a solution to the problem at west coast ports. They ignored the recommendation of the west coast ports inquiry and opted for a provision that was not considered by the Sims commission.

We definitely support the concept of farmers moving their grain to markets unimpeded by labour disputes beyond their control. We think it is absolutely within the farmers' rights to be able to transport their product from the farm gate to the high seas. Maybe that is not an inherent right, but I believe that they should be supplied with the mechanisms to do that.

I have said before in this House when talking on agriculture bills, the problems of production are largely overcome, except for natural disasters which are caused by weather related problems. The farming community has the technology, the expertise and the grain varieties to produce great crops if weather conditions prevail.

The production of crops is not the biggest barrier to making a living on the farm. Nowadays you have to pay attention to the marketing of those crops. If those crops are not marketed properly, you simply are going to go backward in your farming operation. It is absolutely vital that when the farmers' crops are ready to be sold, and there is a willing seller and a willing buyer, that they are able to be transported as far as the high seas to get them to their customers.

That sums up the fact that we believe farmers deserve a better deal than they are getting from this government.

Right now we have the assurances that if the grain gets to the port, I said if, it will be loaded on the ships. But there are a lot of unions between the farm gate and the port. If there is a work disruption anywhere along there, the grain simply does not get to the port. So what good is a mechanism that loads grain that is not in the port? It is absolutely worthless.

Besides, if we were to talk to people in the alfalfa dehydrating business who are also farmers, chemicals, sulphur and potash exporters and lumber producers all stand to lose millions of dollars. They would say that and ask “Where are our assurances that we can move our product? Our products are important too”. Certainly they all admit that grain is important. Certainly they all admit that the work stoppages always seem to occur when there is grain to be shipped through the ports. But other products are extremely important to the producers, to the people they employ and to the Canadian economy.

People on the other side would say yes, yes but the work stoppages always come when grain is moved, and grain has been used as the ace in the hole. Now we are going to move grain. What now is going to become the ace in the hole?

Are we going to find that petrochemical producers can put as much political pressure on the government as the grain farmers did? Are we going to find that work stoppage somewhere in the transportation or at the ports is going to require parliament to reconvene and legislate people back to work because of a work stoppage in the transportation area? It is altogether possible.

Does this bill actually improve anything? I guess it improves things provided that grain continues to move to the port. It is a small baby step forward but we are not content with baby steps. Why not make some real progress? If this act is not going to be opened up for another 25 years, it is incumbent on us to do as much as we can in the time that we have.

I would like to talk a little about replacement workers. The provision on replacement workers could further impede the movement of goods and services in Canada. The new Canada Industrial Relations Board created by this act will be able to deny employers the right to continue to operate, to earn a living by utilizing replacement workers or in some cases maybe even to reassign their own management employees.

Did it ever occur to the powers that be that if we had a dispute settlement mechanism in place, something of the type about which I have been talking, there would be no need for replacement workers in federally regulated workplaces? If the disputes could be settled without having to have these painful, polarizing, agonizing work stoppages, then there would be no need for replacement workers.

This is how the replacement worker issue should be addressed. I hear my colleague from Winnipeg saying not to call them replacement workers, to call them scabs. Some would say that a scab is something temporary while the healing process takes place underneath. I am not sure if that is exactly what my friend from Winnipeg is talking about.

I do not think it is fair either that we should be allowing any group of people, particularly in this case the industrial relations board, to get into a position where they can certify a union without a majority.

I heard the parliamentary secretary explain that the basis for union formation is that it will be done where there is majority support. That is all very well. I have no reason to distrust my colleague, the parliamentary secretary, but I would feel a lot better if those very thoughts of hers were codified, for instance, if we said in this bill something if we have indications that there may be the need, the want or the demand of the workers to form a union, the way to determine that is through a secret ballot vote. It would be exactly the way we are selected for this place, through a secret ballot vote.

Representatives from the labour movement say they we do not want that because there could be intimidation. I do not think there would be any more intimidation there than there is during a federal, provincial or municipal election. That is a tried and true process. We have been using it here for over 125 years, based on the model used in Britain.

It is very interesting to note that Britain has gone to the secret ballot method. Even the Labour government that has taken over from the Thatcherites has seen fit not to change that part of the labour law. I do not know what all the protest is about a secret ballot vote. Perhaps some day that will be addressed in this House.

Very unfortunately we only have less than two and a half hours to debate in the entire day today, so I am sure that this will not get addressed. But I would like very much to be in a position where I could question the government on that very aspect.

We talk about certifying the union without a majority. Although the parliamentary secretary assures us this is not the intention of the bill, we have to look at recent history. There is a case in Ontario where the people at a Wal-Mart store in Windsor voted 151 to 43 against being certified by the union and had their wishes overturned by the Ontario labour relations board and had the union certified against the obvious wishes of the majority. There was a more than three to one majority and the Ontario labour relations board said “we think you people would have voted otherwise in different circumstances and therefore we are going to certify the union whether you want it or not”. That is absolutely undemocratic at the best and totally asinine at the worst.

This bill, as its predecessor Bill C-66, is a piece of legislation that the Reform Party simply cannot support. We believe firmly in the right of people to organize and to withdraw their labour if necessary. But when we are talking about the only game in town, as in the case of the post office, or the ports, or the railways it is not as though a corner store goes on strike. It is an inconvenience but it is not a catastrophe. We can go to a different store, a store that is not in trouble with a work stoppage. But when the ports or the railway go on strike, we have no alternative at all.

That is the basis on which I base my remarks today. I thank the House again for allowing me to share my time with my colleague from Saskatchewan.

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10:45 a.m.


Derrek Konrad Reform Prince Albert, SK

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to address the undemocratic Bill C-19, an act to amend the labour code.

Much has been said about this controversial bill and I would like to begin with the fact that it is undemocratic in that the board does not necessarily have to consult employees on union matters.

This is absolutely unbelievable. In this country, as we are approaching a new millennium, that a board could force a union on employees without consulting them is simply unacceptable.

I am also shocked and disappointed by the way the Liberals have shut down debate on this bill. Their undemocratic action in imposing time allocation on such sweeping legislation reflects a complete abuse of their power and a contempt for the House.

Today, however, I would like to concentrate on something else. I would like to emphasize that the bill guarantees only protection for the movement of grain products in the case of a strike or a lockout. This is such an important issue in my riding. This is provided for in subsection 87.7 of the bill which ensures that grain, once it reaches port, will be shipped out to its final destination.

Although I am delighted to see that grain product movements are protected in these events, I have news for this government. Grain products are not the only agricultural products nor are they the only products subject to transportation and shipping which could be paralyzed in the event of a strike or a lockout. The transportation of such important commodities as pulp and paper, lumber and dairy products could also be paralyzed.

I find it ironic that the government has declared grain transportation essential in this case so long as it is ready to leave the country, while the government does not see fit to declare the movement of grain from the farmer to the port as an essential service, as we have all seen with the problems that have come out of rail line abandonment. This double standard is really puzzling.

In my home province of Saskatchewan the mining association is also concerned that only grain products will be guaranteed movement during a strike or a lockout. What about its products? What will happen to mining products in the event of a strike or a lockout? Has that question been addressed? No. This has been completely ignored. The question that needs to be asked is why one and not the other.

Such action is typical of this government. We have seen it time and again, people divided for the sake of being divided. We have seen this with the hepatitis C file dividing victims into before and after a certain date. We have seen this with Bill C-68, the gun control bill, which divides rural and urban Canadians on a line that did not need to be drawn.

By allowing only grain to be shipped out in such events could cause serious damage to the economy and to the country in terms of people getting along with one another.

I illustrate this by pointing out that in 1996 the total value of cargo that went through the port of Vancouver was $30 billion and grain accounted for $4 billion of that total. What does that amount to? It amounts to 15% grain and 85% for all other products. What about the other $26 billion? Do we just ignore it if we are faced with a strike? It sounds like economic suicide for Canada or economic murder of unprotected sectors or individual businesses and their employees and shareholders.

Another important industry in my riding is the alfalfa dehydrating industry. I would like to thank the people from the industry who came here from my riding of Prince Albert for being effective in communicating their concerns about this bill to the official opposition. Obviously the government did not listen.

The alfalfa dehydration industry represents about $100 million in exports. In my riding this industry accounts for approximately two-thirds of Saskatchewan's output. What about it? Shall we just ignore a $100 million industry that forms an integral part of total farming? I would think not. All products and commodities should be offered protection from arbitrary shipping disruption.

It is time we start protecting the economy of this country. For this reason we proposed to extend this provision of protection. This government, in its lack of wisdom, refuses such action. In fact, the miserable level of protection afforded Canada's agricultural sector in this legislation is comparable to allowing Canadian Tire to continue selling barbeques in the face of a company-wide strike. How much help would that be?

Section 87.4 of this bill allows for the continuation of service in a strike or lockout if there is a danger of public health or safety, which is a good thing, but there is no provision to protect the national economy which affects the livelihood of all Canadians. We feel this is necessary since the national economy is the key factor in providing Canadians with a good standard of living essential to the nation's health and well-being. Therefore it is not asking too much to want to see the national economy protected in a bill along with innocent third parties that could be affected by a strike or lockout.

We know labour strikes rarely affect only the company that suffers the strike. Some strikes cripple entire sectors of the economy. For example, we can look at the 1994 west coast port strike in which the direct costs of the strike were estimated to be more than $125 million. The indirect costs suffered by third parties is twice that. It is estimated to be over $250 million. This is a significantly higher number and it is important that third parties and the national economy be protected. Unfortunately our government did not see things in that light.

In the case of communication and transportation infrastructures any disruption to these sectors would have devastating consequences for the Canadian economy. A strike would not affect only our exports, it would have a dire impact on Canada's reputation throughout the world, possibly affecting future investors and clients interested in Canadian made products.

In light of this it will come as no surprise that the Reform Party is of the firm belief that the economy needs to be protected and that companies must always maintain the right to operate. Furthermore, unionized employees need timely resolution of their concerns which is not ensured under the present legislation. The right to operate means that a company faced with a strike has a right to hire replacement workers if they are available and willing to work, which is not always guaranteed. That is their right as well.

I was disappointed in the government when I found that section 94(2)2.1 of this bill prohibits the use of replacement workers if the Canadian Industrial Relations Board determines that their presence undermines the union. It is our opinion that this puts too much power in the hands of the industrial relations board and undermines the rights of the employer since it is unfairly biased in favour of the union. We find that unacceptable as well.

We would have liked to see this bill amended so that in the event of another Canada Post strike such as the one we saw last year an arbitrator could be chosen by both the union and the employer to resolve the outstanding differences between the two parties. The arbitrator's final decision would be binding on both parties. That only makes good sense to the official opposition and to most right thinking Canadians.

For the reasons I have mentioned we oppose Bill C-19 and we call on all hon. members prior to voting on the bill to seriously consider the consequences of Bill C-19 if it becomes law. I am sure that if they do they will join with the official opposition in opposing this flawed and undemocratic legislation.

StudentsStatements By Members

10:55 a.m.


George Proud Liberal Hillsborough, PE

Mr. Speaker, spring flowers are now in full bloom but I am not speaking about the flowers like the thousands of tulips around this fair city. I am referring to all the graduating students throughout our nation.

Our students are much like flowers. First we prepare the soil as a food rich base. As the flowers grow we take care by watering them and then beautiful colourful blooms reward our efforts.

For our students the soil is their educational institutions. The water is our assistance such as Canada student loans, the various tax credits or some 60,000 annual summer student jobs. Soon we will offering some 100,000 millennium scholarships each and every year starting in the year 2000. At the end we are rewarded with highly educated participants in the workforce, the blooms of our labour force.

I congratulate all the students in my riding of Hillsborough on their graduation. May all their colours shine through as they enter the labour force.

The SenateStatements By Members

10:55 a.m.


Bill Gilmour Reform Nanaimo—Alberni, BC

Mr. Speaker, the Fathers of Confederation established the Senate to give Canadians regional representation.

However, with the current patronage system most senators represent the political interests of the parties that appointed them. Few are accountable to the provinces they are supposed to represent. However, there are a few good senators who represent their regions and serve their constituents well.

One notable senator in my home province of British Columbia is Senator Pat Carney. Senator Carney has been in the forefront of British Columbia issues such as the salmon treaty with the U.S. and retaining lighthouses on the west coast. Both of these are issues that the Liberal government has either failed to act on or has bungled miserably these past four and a half years.

Yesterday it was reported that Senator Carney checked into hospital in Prince Rupert with cardiac related problems. I want to take this opportunity to wish Senator Carney a speedy recovery. We want her back in her seat. Good senators are hard to come by.

National Police WeekStatements By Members

11 a.m.


Rey D. Pagtakhan Liberal Winnipeg North—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, National Police Week ends tomorrow. Canadians from coast to coast have been paying special tribute to those officers on the front line in the fight against crime. But police officers do much more than fight criminals.

This was recently displayed when two RCMP officers in Manitoba quickly stopped a wayward vehicle and administered CPR to the unconscious man at the wheel until the ambulance services arrived. The quick thinking and bold actions by Constables Claude Rochon and Marc Simard saved the life of that man who had suffered a heart attack while driving.

Let us salute Constables Rochon and Simard and all police officers in Canada during this special week. Their selfless dedication to protecting and serving our citizenry is testimony to our brave, capable and caring Canadian police officers who work hard to make our communities safer and who often do their job beyond their usual call of duty.

International Day Of FamiliesStatements By Members

11 a.m.


René Laurin Bloc Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, today the Canadian United Nations Association is marking the International Day of Families, which reminds us of the importance of the family as an institution.

As this millennium comes to a close and the concept of the traditional family has to share space with blended families and single-parent families, the family is still vital to personal development. Despite our greatly changing social institutions, the family survives, and its role continues to grow. It is a vital and influential element of society.

Something that was said back in 1928 by a former Swedish Prime Minister, Mr. Hansson, is as valid today as ever: “In the home, there is equality, consideration and mutual assistance. Applied on a larger scale, this could lead to the breaking down of social and economic barriers between the privileged and the disadvantaged, between master and underling, between rich and poor.”

Speech And Hearing Awareness MonthStatements By Members

11 a.m.


Carolyn Parrish Liberal Mississauga Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to inform the House and all Canadians that May is Speech and Hearing Awareness Month across Canada.

This is an opportunity to educate Canadians about the challenges faced by the deaf and hard of hearing. An estimated one in ten Canadians is deaf or has some degree of hearing loss. Those most likely to be affected are seniors.

In this era of advanced technology we recognize the importance of being aware of and improving the situation of those with hearing related communication disorders. Speech and Hearing Awareness Month is recognized by voluntary and professional organizations across Canada. These organizations are planning special activities for the month of May.

Please join me in congratulating the national, provincial and regional organizations, service agencies, consumer groups, professionals and volunteers who through their programs continue to improve the quality of life for the deaf and the hard of hearing in Canada.

Occupational Safety And HealthStatements By Members

11 a.m.


Brenda Chamberlain Liberal Guelph—Wellington, ON

Mr. Speaker, yesterday I had the pleasure of attending the official launch of the North American Occupational Safety and Health Week. It is being held from May 18 to 24.

The week has become an annual event which runs concurrently in Canada, the United States and Mexico. It is sponsored by the Commissioner for Labour Co-operation created under the North American Agreement on Labour Co-operation.

The objective of the week is to focus attention on the importance of preventing injury and illness in the workplace. This year's theme is “Occupational, Safety and Health: Partners Together in Safety”.

Increasing awareness and promoting safe and healthy work practices can save lives. This is why this annual event is so important.

I know hon. members join me in wishing the participants much success in the important educational work they will undertake next week.

Occupational Health And SafetyStatements By Members

11 a.m.


Dale Johnston Reform Wetaskiwin, AB

Mr. Speaker, besides verbal jabs from members opposite, parliamentarians face few work related dangers. Many other Canadians however are exposed to serious occupational hazards on a daily basis.

For the second consecutive year, the three NAFTA partners designated the week of May 18 as North American Occupational Health and Safety Week. This year's theme “Partners Together in Safety” emphasizes the ongoing need for a balance in labour-management relations.

Just as it is the employer's responsibility to provide employees with safety training and a secure work environment, it is incumbent on workers to take precautions to prevent accidents. The onus is on each one of us to become safety conscious to protect our co-workers and reduce workplace injuries. The reality is that while accidents can happen to anyone, anywhere and in any job, most accidents can be avoided.

Since many of us will visit businesses, farms and factories during the recess, it is an opportune time for us to spread the word about the need—

Occupational Health And SafetyStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The hon. member for Perth—Middlesex.

North American Aerospace Defence CommandStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


John Richardson Liberal Perth—Middlesex, ON

Mr. Speaker, this week marks the 40th anniversary of the formal creation of the North American Aerospace Defence Command, known as NORAD.

I am proud to acknowledge the dedication and professionalism of the men and women of the command, both Canadian and American, past and present, who have stood shoulder to shoulder in the common defence of our continent.

NORAD has been a cornerstone of Canada-United States defence co-operation for 40 years. It has evolved significantly from its earliest mission of defending against Soviet manned bomber attack.

As well as monitoring any threats to North American airspace, NORAD monitors manmade objects in space to warn of possible accidents and assists law enforcement agencies in monitoring aircraft that may be involved in drug trafficking.

I know my colleagues will join me in offering a heartfelt thanks to those vigilant guardians who continue to provide all Canadians with a sense of security by watching over our airspace.

The FamilyStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


Mac Harb Liberal Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, today is International Day of Families. The United Nations initiated this day to encourage everyone from every community around the world to celebrate the importance of families in our lives.

The family plays a vital role in the well-being of humankind. Throughout much of the developing world the family is the sole support for its members. For these people, the family is their society and their strength.

In Canada we enjoy an excellent social support system, but nothing could be more important than the support of our families. The relationship between parents and children, brothers and sisters, grandparents and grandchildren should be celebrated today.

This holiday weekend is an excellent opportunity for all families to get together. I encourage all Canadians to plan activities and celebrate with their loved ones.

Young Offenders ActStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


Deepak Obhrai Reform Calgary East, AB

Mr. Speaker, on Tuesday the Minister of Justice issued a discussion paper on reforms to the Young Offenders Act.

In June 1997 the same minister proclaimed that amending the Young Offenders Act was a priority. Here we are almost one year later and there is no sign of legislation, no sign even of draft legislation. Instead Canadians are given a document which contains few specifics, few details and no concrete proposal for changing the act.

If the minister lacks the leadership and the political skills to address the important issue of youth crime, then perhaps she should get out of the way and allow the official opposition to take up the mantle.

The Reform Party advocates a three-pronged approach in dealing with youth crime. This would include an early detection and prevention strategy, community based sentencing for non-violent offenders and ensuring that the Young Offenders Act applies to youth between the ages of 10 and 15.

The bottom line is that Canadians are concerned about their safety. It is too bad that—