House of Commons Hansard #199 of the 36th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was grain.


Movement Of GrainEmergency Debate

8:25 p.m.

Trinity—Spadina Ontario


Tony Ianno LiberalParliamentary Secretary to President of the Treasury Board and Minister responsible for Infrastructure

Madam Speaker, I thank all my fellow members for the opportunity to speak to them about the significant impact that rotational strikes being waged by the Public Service Alliance are having across the country.

More specifically, I will speak about how we arrived at the serious issue we have before us today. Since this government returned to the negotiating table with the public service union nearly two years ago, I am pleased to report we have reached new collective agreements with more than 87% of the unionized workforce in the public service of Canada.

This includes reaching agreements with some 100,000 employees represented by the Public Service Alliance of Canada without work stoppages. Our settlements have been fair and reasonable and now thousands of our employees are seeing salary increases as a result of reaching these new agreements as well as other non-monetary benefits.

Unfortunately during these same two years and with the same Public Service Alliance of Canada we have not been able to reach a negotiated settlement for the 14,000 blue collar workers or 9% of the government employees they represent. However, this has not been for lack of effort on the government's part.

It has not been for a lack of willingness to be flexible at the bargaining table. This has not been for our lack of capacity to move from our original bargaining position. We have done all the above and yet we are still without a settlement.

I am concerned that the union's inflexibility at the bargaining table is beginning to affect many innocent, unrelated parties. After nine weeks Canadians across the country and the government that serves them continue to be subjected to disruptions, inconveniences, significant losses of revenues and in some instances acts of civil disobedience and violence.

It is the issue of regional pay rates that has led us to the bargaining table to a position of not being able to deliver important grain shipments, not being able to board airplanes, not being able to file our income taxes, not being able to receive our income tax refunds and not being able to receive a variety of other government services.

Members should know that because of the union's position on regional rates federal departments and agencies have been subjected to rotating strikes week in and week out. These strikes have closed federal buildings for periods of a day or more in cities from Vancouver to Halifax. The results have been temporary disruptions in the operations of the affected departments and agencies, an inconvenience to Canadians who want to do business with those institutions.

The picket lines are evident to all. Less clear, at least to most people, is what this strike is all about. It is in fact about regional rates of pay. To understand this strike one must understand what regional rates of pay are, why the government wants to maintain them and what would be the implications of accepting the union's demand for uniform national rates of pay.

The short answer is that the government pays different rates in different parts of the country because living costs and wages vary across Canada.

As the largest employer in Canada we have a responsibility not to act in a way that would distort the labour market, especially the local market. Among other things, this means we should not create conditions of employment so favourable for our own employees that the private sector employees are unable to fill their jobs in their enterprises. By the same token, if we want people with the necessary skill and experience we know we must pay wages high enough to be competitive in the local market. This in a nutshell is why we have regional rates of pay.

It means we must pay a dock worker in Victoria more than one in Halifax because living costs are higher on the west coast than on the east coast and labour costs in the two regions reflect this. Similar differences exist for other occupational groups, mostly trades people such as carpenters and plumbers, but also for some professionals.

If we do not pay more in the high cost areas we will not be able to compete for the skills we need. If we pay too much in the low cost areas we put pressure on the local employers to pay more for the manpower they need, thus distorting the local labour market.

As a government we believe this approach is fair to our employees, to employers and to workers in different parts of the country, and to people in Canada who ultimately pay the government's wage bill or have to pay for the professional services they need from the private sector.

On the other side of the House we just heard someone say “Who cares?” But many small business people across this country cannot afford to pay the higher labour costs that the Government of Canada might be able to afford, which at that point would create undue hardships for many of those small business people.

I see a Reform member on the other side who I know is very responsive to small business. I hope he has the opportunity to communicate with the rest of his colleagues to express how important small business is to this country.

The idea of paying wages that are determined in part by local labour market conditions goes back many years in Canada. The 1962 Glassco royal commission, whose recommendations underpin much of our modern public service, stated the issue very clearly. The commission said: “We do not see why the most important employer in the country should take no account of the local labour market. If it refuses to take account, it will find itself paying more or less than it should. This”, the commission argued, “would serve neither economic growth nor competitiveness”.

As the other side of the House, the Reform Party especially, has been talking the last couple of days about competitiveness, I am sure they understand the difference of the regional rates of pay issue that we are dealing with today.

For more than 30 years the principle has been clear. The government should pay regional rates for employee groups where the labour market varies significantly across Canada. We should pay the national rates where there is a national labour market. That is what we do and we are not alone.

Consider the United States. Like Canada it is a country with major regional economic differences. The American government pays different rates to its blue collar workers that reflect regional market conditions. The variations can run as high as 39% above local wage levels in the best paid zones to 16% below them in the lowest paid zones.

I would like to point out this evening to all members who are here because of their concern over the impact that this strike is having on Canadians, on government operations and on farmers that the system is not perfect. In any effort to define a regional labour market specific local circumstances can vary to the benefit or disadvantage of workers and/or the employer. That is why in the recent rounds of collective bargaining, which this government believes in, we have worked with the unions to try to arrive at a system that is fair and effective for both sides so that we can look at things on a long term basis and continue supporting the collective bargaining rights of workers with the employer.

We have, for example, reduced the number of pay zones, to simplify comparisons and to make pay administration easier, from 10 to 7.

Is there an alternative to regional rates of pay? The union argues that there is. They are striking today because they are seeking a single national rate for the affected occupational groups, irrespective of regional circumstances. We do not think such an approach would be fair or in the public interest.

Paying the same rate across the board would mean paying some people too much and others too little. Neither is desirable.

Let me remind members of the House that as an elected government responsible and accountable to Canadians we must balance and abide by the rules of both the national and local markets. We must pay wages high enough to attract and retain the quality of labour that we require and are proud of, and not so high that we cannot afford to maintain our operations.

However, at the end of the day the government, as the employer, is not an employer like any other. Our obligation to act in the public interest colours our approach to every issue, including matters raised at the bargaining table.

This government does not like strikes any more than Canadians who are prevented by picket lines from making a payment, collecting a benefit or searching a job board.

I believe we have been more than tolerant for the past nine weeks. We are prepared to maintain a system of pay rates for public servants that is fair to all concerned.

Let me conclude by saying that as a government we are prepared to examine all of the options. We must look at every possibility to resolve this issue in an expedient manner. We must put an end to the impasse that these rotational strikes are having on Canadians who deserve to receive responsive service at a reasonable cost.

We respect the collective bargaining process, as is shown by the 87% of workforce agreements that we have negotiated with the unions. We have offered 9%, which is even more than the other unions have received.

However, it is our ultimate commitment to the people of Canada that a solution is needed at once so that the innocent parties that continue to do trade and commerce are not affected, such as the farmers of western Canada.

Movement Of GrainEmergency Debate

8:35 p.m.


Jake Hoeppner Reform Portage—Lisgar, MB

Madam Speaker, I cannot say that it is a pleasure to stand in this House tonight to speak to this issue.

I want to congratulate my colleague from Selkirk—Interlake for bringing this debate to the House to try and impress upon this government that there is an emergency in the farm community. What bothers me even more is that when I look at the government today, there is not just an emergency, there is a crisis, a real crisis.

This government was elected in 1993 to run the affairs of the country, to govern 28 million inhabitants, and it is not capable of addressing the problems of 70 weighmen who look after grain weighing in Vancouver.

I cannot understand how it even considers that it should be sitting on that side of the House when a little crisis like this emergency cannot be addressed.

These people have been in a legal strike position for 90 days. I would like to see what these members of parliament would do if for 90 days nobody sent them their cheques, put food on their table or kept things the way they should be. The crisis is on that side. The emergency is in Vancouver. Something has to happen.

I remember back almost five years ago when we were debating the railway strike. I happened to go through Hansard and I picked up a question that was put to the government by my colleague on this side of the House, the hon. member for Wetaskiwin. This is what the member asked of the international trade minister:

Mr. Speaker, the week long rail stoppage has cost Canada dearly. Canada has lost over $5 billion, of which farmers have lost $100 million, exporters have lost $1 billion and $2 billion has been added to the public debt. These are just the short term costs. The total will climb even higher because our clients have lost confidence in our transportation system.

My question is for the Minister for International Trade. What plan does this minister have to address these long term costs?

This was the reply: “Mr. Speaker, I am not sure I understood the question”.

Five years later I do not think they understand the question. I was astounded when my colleague from Yorkton—Melville read the letter and expected government members to understand what it meant. When they cannot understand a verbal question, how could they read a letter and decipher what it means? That is the problem. It astounds me that these things can continue. This is a prime example of why other countries have lost confidence in the affairs of this country. That is why we have a 65 cent dollar.

When I started farming in 1957 through 1972 I remember that the dollar was always pretty well par with the U.S. dollar. In 1976 it started falling. It had climbed to a height of 110 cents to the U.S. dollar. It was 10% over par. The assets that I gained up to 1976 are now only worth 65 cents of that value. How can a country remain stable? How can a country be productive? How can we protect the living standards of future generations if this is what we are experiencing?

In the 26 years that I farmed we had at least 16 or 17 work stoppages in the grain handling system. Every time we farmers thought of harvesting a crop to get compensation for the input costs we had for our labour, somebody along the line knew that we were held hostage and they could force government or industry to increase wages or do less work. We were supposed to become more competitive and more productive. We were supposed to keep on surviving. It has reached the point today that it is impossible.

I just happened to pick up one of the householders that my staff was preparing. It says “Foreclosure”. I wondered what they were talking about. I saw the costs that this government spent on golf balls and tees during the last year. I looked down the line and I saw that foreign affairs spent $2,500 on golf balls and tees.

Go to the Department of Agriculture and Agri-Food, zero for balls and $192 for tees. How can we can have a golf game when we only have tees? That is the attitude the government takes toward agriculture. It is astounding. That is the fact. How can we deal and maintain an industry with that type of attitude?

When I hear my hon. colleague from Peace River saying he wonders what has happened to the government and what it is doing, I cannot help but think it is sleeping tonight. What else could it be doing? Is there nobody here? The House should be full, should it not? I think the spirits are there. We awoke one from the dead. Isn't that a friendly disposition.

When we hear of 2,700 rail cars not being unloaded every day it does not mean that it is just those workers at the port who are not working. It means there are another couple of thousand workers down the line, on the railroad, on the elevator, in the trucking company who also are not working. Who will pay those wages? Businesses have to keep these people on staff because they are under contract. It all comes finally out of the farmers' pockets. They are killing the industry completely.

For five years we have been in the House and we have seen it continue year after year. We have come to the point now where it is almost a sin to produce food because somebody will be in trouble.

Young farmers today cannot survive. Even with either the husband or the wife working outside the farm, they continue to pay input costs. Taxes on farms have gone up on average from 8%, 9% to 10%.

I was in Regina two weeks ago at a farm rally and I started talking to some of the Saskatchewan farmers. It is sad. It is disastrous. Saskatchewan farmers have not paid at least 50% of their property taxes for last year. We talked to one fuel dealer who had 10 bankruptcies since Christmas.

Farmers are waiting for the aid promised by the Liberal government. For almost a year we warned this government there was a crisis. Maybe in June they will get some money. Maybe there will not be any money because many people have had losses over three years and will not qualify for that program.

One of the fuel dealers told me he had a fuel bill of $350,000 from one of the big operators. We have come to the point where a 10,000 acre farm is not big anymore. One of the farmers just west of Regina was telling me that he put in 11,000 acres last spring. He could have had another 7,000 acres from neighbours if he had picked it up to farm it. He said “We have worked hard. We have been entrepreneurs. We have a trucking company that my daughter manages”. They run 17 Peterbilt trucks on the highway. They have two private fertilizer companies. One of them is run by the wife and the other one is run by the daughter-in-law. This is a multimillion dollar operation. The gentleman told me “If we do not get out of farming in the next year or two, we will have lost all the assets that we worked for all our life”.

That is a disaster. That is not just an emergency. It is a crime when people who produce the most important product in the world cannot have a viable operation. This reminds me of a country I was in in 1981; 20,000 hectares in a communal farm and people are starving.

One third of their food was produced on the little quarter acre plots where the workers lived, not on the farms. We are becoming a country with huge corporate farms that are so inefficient but so productive that they are killing themselves. That has to change.

This government has to start realizing that if we are supposed to import our food instead of producing it ourselves, we will not have a 65 cent dollar. We will probably have a Mexican peso. I do not want to see that.

I go back about four years when I rose in the House on one of my first speeches. I compared this government to the first self-propelled red combine that I bought. I do not know how many people remember that combine.

Today I see a big semi-truck sitting on that side, a government that should be able to govern this country like nobody's business. For some reason I see that semi-truck sitting there and it is not moving. It is not doing what it was built for.

What has gone wrong with that truck? It ran out of gas. I have seen it sitting for five years. The motor has ceased. It cannot move. It cannot even be dragged out of there.

I see grass over the wheels. There are tires on that big semi but they are all rotten. There is no rubber at the bottom. It could not roll even if it were pulled. That is what I see across the aisle today as far as the government is concerned.

I look a little further. There should be some value in that big semi-truck. There is some value. The rats and the mice are in it. They have been using the cushion seat for housing. If someone wanted to get into that truck and drive it, those springs would be very hard in some places, not to mention the smell.

The combine was a bad example but this truck really scares me. If we have to get rid of that animal, there is sure going to be some smell around this place.

How will we handle it? Will we have enough gas masks? Will we have enough equipment to remove it? The job will have to be done. It cannot continue like this. It may be comical but there is a lot of truth to it.

We have one of the greatest countries in the world. We have gone from zero debt to $600 billion. Tell me why. In 30 years, three decades, this debt has built up not because this country was not great but because the management by previous governments during those three decades did not do their job.

They let the future generations of this country down. Someday they will have to pay for it. They will have to give account of what has happened. The pay day is coming.

I can see in the 21st century a change where we will forget what type of politics was performed in the House for three decades. We will try to bury it and start all over again. We will give future generations hope, something to trust in, something they can build on, a place where they can raise their families and be proud of where they are.

Today when I see 70 workers shutting down the whole country and a government sitting on that side not doing its job, it is disastrous. It is criminal.

I do not know how this change will come but I can guarantee it will come. It has come in every other country where this type of situation has developed. I know we will not like it when it comes. If we are not prepared to tackle a little problem where 70 people can stop a whole nation, what will we ever do if we have a problem that is huge, a problem that needs courage and a problem like our past generation had to deal with when foreign nations attacked their freedom and their democracy?

I hope government members will wake up tomorrow morning, take the sleep out of their eyes, get to work and finally show this country they were elected to do a job and do it.

Movement Of GrainEmergency Debate

8:55 p.m.


Jason Kenney Reform Calgary Southeast, AB

Madam Speaker, that is a tough act to follow from an hon. gentlemen I regard as one of the most effective speakers of this place and a true quintessential prairie gentlemen, the member for Portage—Lisgar.

I am pleased to rise in debate on this emergency motion with respect to the strikes we are facing in the ports in Vancouver. I would like to broaden my comments to address the impact of the strike on the delivery of services by Revenue Canada at tax centres across the country.

We have heard plenty of evidence and testimony this evening about the kind of debilitating impact this strike action is having on the tens of thousands of Canadian grain farmers.

It truly amazes me, as somebody who grew up in a small prairie farming town, to see that the more than 120,000 grain farms across western Canada should be held hostage by 70 individuals picketing the terminals at the ports of Vancouver.

It is beyond belief that we have allowed a system to continue year after year and decade after decade which can see an entire industry, hundreds of communities, tens of thousands of families and an entire way of life, an entire regional economy, put at risk and damaged by the irresponsible actions of a few and the inaction of an irresponsible government.

Just by delaying the delivery of this grain to the ships waiting in port by even a few days incurs an enormous cost that gets passed on to prairie grain farmers, perhaps the people least equipped to deal with this kind of economic difficulty at this time. Prairie grain farmers are already suffering from the losing end of an international grain war and historic lows in commodity prices. Prairie grain farmers are suffering from historic highs in input costs and who are suffering from historic highs in government taxation.

Across the beautiful prairie provinces a sad story is unfolding as we see once proud and vibrant farm communities shrinking slowly and the lifeblood being sucked out of them as the agricultural economy suffers year after year.

Why is it that in one area where government could make a difference, by ensuring an unimpeded flow of goods to port and abroad, it does not take responsibility to ensure that happens? We clearly are limited in the authority we have to address the depression in commodity prices caused by European and American subsidies. There is one thing at least that we in parliament can clearly do to prevent this from happening, to end the imminent threat which is the cause of this motion tonight by whatever means legally necessary but, more important, to remove from a handful of union organizers the sword of Damocles which hangs permanently over the entire western grain industry. That solution would be to declare the jobs at these ports part of an essential service and to require binding arbitration if settlements cannot be reached so that we can never return to the economic pain being caused day by day as this strike drags out.

As other members of my caucus have remarked, this is not the first time we have seen a strike of this nature. Unless the government finds a more fundamental solution it will not be the last.

While this is an emergency debate, it ought not to be a debate just for the situation we face now. The solution the government seems to be headed for of back to work legislation ought not to be seen as a long term solution. It is a short term, knee-jerk response to a short term problem. We need to fundamentally change the nature of government labour relations when it comes to critical government regulated industries of this nature.

I hearken back to 1980-81 when then President Ronald Reagan had just assumed the office of the American presidency. He was faced with a strike of air traffic controllers across that country who refused to arbitrate or negotiate and who were clearly an essential service. They had shut down the entire American transportation infrastructure.

President Reagan made it very clear that they were in his view an essential service and if they did not go back to work within 48 hours they would be let go. The union organizers called his bluff, but ultimately President Reagan did what was best for Americans, their economy and their transportation infrastructure. He laid down the law and demonstrated what an essential service really means by taking drastic action.

We do not see that kind of strike action happening now in the United States because it has been declared an essential service. We ought to do the same thing in Canada where we are talking about small handfuls of people who can literally stop the momentum of an entire regional economy.

I want now to turn my attention to another problem which is growing in proportion. As we speak this evening there are probably PSAC organizers across the country planning pickets tomorrow for yet another day around regional tax centres operated by the Department of National Revenue.

When they do this, what happens? The processing of tax returns, tax rebates, the child tax benefit and all taxes and transfers administered by Revenue Canada simply shut down. This is a function that is absolutely essential to the operation of government. We are talking today about nearly a million tax returns being frozen in the system at Revenue Canada. This means delays of days and probably weeks. If this carries on, who knows how long the delays will be?

It is easy for us as parliamentarians to bemoan the frustration felt by Canadians and the inconvenience of all this, but we ought not to lose sight of the fact that hundreds of thousands of Canadians rely on the cheques that are being held hostage in those tax centres tonight. That is money that does not belong to the government, to the union bosses or to the bureaucrats. It belongs to the people to whom those cheques should have been issued days ago, and should be issued tomorrow, but will not be because this government refuses to act to ensure that those Canadians have the financial resources that belong to them.

We are talking about low income people, among others, who quite literally depend on the timely delivery of GST rebate cheques, their income tax refund, the child tax benefit or any other number of programs administered by the Department of National Revenue. They depend on those cheques not as discretionary income but as essential income. They depend on those cheques to pay the rent and to buy groceries. We are talking about money that is absolutely essential to the livelihood of many Canadian families.

We cannot allow this to continue unanswered. We cannot allow rogue action by a certain handful of union organizers to threaten the financial livelihood of vulnerable Canadians. I appeal to the government not to continue to delay, to prevaricate and to hope for a negotiated solution that apparently has not happened and will not happen in the bargaining units we are talking about, but to act with speed and with absolute dispatch.

I assure the government that on behalf of my constituents I will support any legal action to get those cheques moving out of those tax centres where they are today held hostage.

It is simply not good enough to solve the problem with back to work legislation and to find ourselves reliving this, repeating history yet again three or four or five years down the road. It is not good enough for the grain farmers who are hurting today. It is not good enough for the low income people and the seniors waiting for their cheques from Revenue Canada. We need a fundamental top to bottom change in the relationship of government to the essential services which we guarantee to Canadian people.

We stand here as parliamentarians in a position of enormous responsibility and authority. We have a fiduciary obligation to ensure that the basic essential services necessary to the peaceful conduct of the lives of private citizens are carried out by the departments, by the apparatus of the federal government.

It simply is not good enough to let these things happen over and over again. A great thinker once said that history repeats itself the first time as tragedy and the second time as farce. I think we are well beyond the stage of farce. This is the fourth or fifth time in my political lifetime that I recall points of crisis in labour-government negotiations of this nature.

In closing, I simply reiterate on behalf of my constituents and my colleagues in the opposition that it is time to get on the ball. It is time to stop prevaricating on the part of the government. I asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Revenue about the problem at the tax centres today and she said “We are concerned and we are looking at it”.

I am glad to see that they are concerned and they are looking, but that is not good enough for vulnerable Canadians. What they need is not concern. What they need is not looking. They need action, and we are here tonight demanding that the government act.

Movement Of GrainEmergency Debate

9:05 p.m.


Werner Schmidt Reform Kelowna, BC

Madam Speaker, there are two people I would like to recognize tonight before I get into my remarks. The first is the Speaker who agreed when he received the letter from the hon. member for Selkirk-Interlake that indeed there was an emergency, a crisis in Canada today. He had sense enough to recognize that this was an important issue. I congratulate him for allowing the emergency debate to take place tonight.

The other person whom I would like to recognize is the parliamentary secretary who is sitting here on behalf of the President of the Treasury Board and who is listening to the debate. I hope he listens very carefully to some of the things that have been said and that will be said in the next few minutes.

I do not have all the answers but I do have a couple of basic fundamental principles that I have found to be true wherever I go. As a businessman this gentleman knows only too well that what I will say is exactly what he has practised and what has made him a successful business person. I challenge him to apply the same criteria that made his business succeed to what the government is supposed to be doing in terms of its labour relations and in terms of the management of the economy and the finances of the country.

I will focus my remarks on two concepts. The first one is leadership. The second one is management. I propose to the Liberal government that at the present time the incidence before us that has given rise to this debate is merely a symptom of a lack of leadership in the government. It is an example. It is symptomatic of a lack of management or the application of management principles and the understanding of the operation of those principles.

I will move into those two areas to try to show clearly how the government is lacking vision. The number one characteristic of good vision a leader must have is a vision about where we are going as a nation, where we are going as a corporation, where we are going as a business, what will benefit this business, what will make it profitable, what will make us succeed as a corporation in the environment within which we have decided to set up business, what will serve our customers well, what will give us the satisfaction, and what will give us a profitable organization. For that a leader needs a goal and a vision and a clear articulation of that vision and of that goal.

Where is the vision in terms of reviewing the issue today? There is none. If there was one he would know that labour-management principles must be exercised. We should have smooth and co-operative labour-management relations. Do we have them? No.

We had a post office strike two years ago. It still has not been resolved. The Minister of Labour has extended the deadlines for the arbitrator again and again. I wonder if the hon. parliamentary secretary will go to the Minister of Labour and ask him to extend the deadline once again. March 31 is the deadline for the arbitrator. Will it be extended once more?

It is not only vision that is lacking. A leader is also a decision maker. He knows how to make decisions and does so. We have had decisions made by the Prime Minister. We have had a canoe museum built. We have had all kinds of interesting diversionary tactics to focus attention on everything except the solution of the things that we demand.

When will we come to the point where we recognize that we need to attack a problem, look at the alternatives, examine the implication of those alternatives, choose one, act and go down that road? Have we seen that? No. We are lacking on two counts: no vision and no decision making apparatus.

Let us examine how crises have been resolved? There was back to work legislation in the most recent strike at Canada Post. Has it resolved the crisis? The people are back at work, but what has the result been? It has stymied the negotiations with other unions that Canada Post is engaged with. It has brought about the situation that is existing in Vancouver right now. It is affecting all other negotiations. My hon. colleague from Calgary just indicated that it is affecting national revenue and the refunds that people are supposed to get.

These are all little crises. They are not of the proportion of the one with the grain handlers, but they show that the government is incapable of dealing effectively with its labour-management problems.

Movement Of GrainEmergency Debate

9:10 p.m.

An hon. member


Movement Of GrainEmergency Debate

9:10 p.m.


Werner Schmidt Reform Kelowna, BC

That is the word. I was going to leave that word until later but it is true. I am happy the hon. member is so accurate in his perception. He recognizes that all this is leading to incompetent management.

There is a fourth area in which we have no leadership. A good leader anticipates problems. If there was ever an indication there would be problems that could have been anticipated, this is one. It was no secret. The hon. member for Yorkton—Melville referred to a letter. The problem was laid out in black and white. What did they do? Nothing.

That is not the only thing. Did they know that the contract was coming up with grain weighers? Of course they knew. Notice had been given a long time ago. Did they know that there could be a development and an escalation to the point where a strike could occur? Of course they knew. Did they anticipate what would happen if a strike took place? Did they anticipate what would happen if it would shut down the whole system?

The only answer we received was the one this afternoon in question period. On the eve of the emergency debate, what did the President of the Treasury Board say? He said they had the right to associate, the right to organize, and that means the right to strike. Is that handling the problem? It is anything but. Did they anticipate the problem? If they did, they certainly did not do anything about it.

Leadership is lacking on at least those four dimensions. Let us look at management. Management is the ability to apply scarce resources—and we always have scarce resources—in such a way that we get the desired results. Let us look at the way in which the government has managed its scarce resources. We have a balanced budget. Guess what?

With great pride and pompous arrogance the Minister of Finance says “We have balanced the budget. We have managed the expenditures of the government. We have controlled and done all these things and now we have a balanced budget”. Did he tell the Canadian taxpayers that they are each paying $1,300 more so the budget could be balanced? It is the increase in revenue that made the difference.

Who balanced the budget? The Canadian taxpayer balanced the budget. That is who balanced the budget. The government is spending more money today than it did before. The management here is on the part of the Canadian taxpayer who is paying more dollars into the federal treasury and somehow still is able to manage. That is where the good management is. It is not on the part of the government.

Instead of managing effectively, the government and the preceding government created at least four examples of intrusion by crown corporations. We can talk about the Business Development Bank of Canada, the Canada Post Corporation, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation and the Canadian mint. There is a direct intervention into the marketplace, in direct competition with other businesses. The government takes money out of a successful businesses and brings it over to these businesses. This government, which has unlimited resources compared to corporations, pits its resources against them and expects them to compete successfully. It does not work too well.

This is how the government intrudes. I will never forget the day. I was a kid at the time. Our utilities bill was put in our mailbox by a high school or university student who delivered the bills on behalf of the utilities company. It was done at a very low cost to the utilities company. All of a sudden this big dictum came down that this was illegal. Canada Post must deliver those and the company would have to pay 45 cents, or 50 cents, whatever the rate was at that time in order to get those bills delivered.

It was an immediate increase in the cost to the utilities company to deliver its bills. The utilities company had to go to the utilities commission to say that it would have to increase its rates. The government had it worked out beautifully. Who paid? The consumer paid. What kind of management is this? We could get into all kinds of other examples.

The other area, which I think is the most fundamental of all of these, is good labour-management relations. A good manager has good labour-management relations. What seems to have happened here is there is labour on one side and management on the other. There seems to be this irony that surrounds these negotiations. On the one hand management says it wants to run the corporation at a profit. It wants to run the business efficiently. It wants to deliver the services and goods in a timely fashion, in an effective way and to do it smoothly and with a profit. On the other hand those on the labour side want to frustrate management in whatever way they can so that they can get the maximum out of it for them, for their way of living and things of that sort.

After they have fought they come together and say that now they have solved their problems they are going to work together. Before that they fought like crazy. How is it possible that we can have a situation where there should be co-operation and smoothness when the system we use to determine salary levels and working conditions is one of confrontation and antagonism? It is a system that is not working very well.

We have a beautiful example of it right now. It broke down. When it breaks down it hurts everybody. It hurts management. It hurts the supplier. It hurts the workers. Those workers are not going to recover what they are losing right now. It is to their own detriment that they get into these situations.

I wonder sometimes where the logic is. I want to ask a couple of questions of the Liberal backbenchers. Many people over there, and I know a number of them personally, are good business people. They have succeeded. They know what leadership is. They know what good management is. They know what good labour-management relations are.

What in the world happened? What did they do to their business sense? Did they dump it at the door when they walked in here? What did they do with the good sound leadership and the vision they had? Did they leave it somewhere? I do not understand how it is possible for these highly professional, highly skilled, well educated individuals, these highly successful business people in a number of seats across the way. Somehow that ability is not made part of the cabinet. It is not made part of the Prime Minister's leadership in this House. How can it be?

It defies anything within me that they suddenly turn off everything they know, everything they have experienced, everything they know to be wrong, to simply turn that all off and say, “Let us do whatever he says”. It is false, it is misleading and it is an insult to the Canadian people. They deserve better. We have leaders in this country. I do not believe for a minute that there is not leadership on that side of the House, but for some reason or another it is not being allowed to surface.

How can it be that a solid strong professional and a strong business person can allow himself to vote against compensating the victims of hepatitis C from tainted blood? How can that possibly be? How can it be when the logic of solid family relations is defeated by saying that it is okay to have an unequal situation with regard to those who work inside the home and those who work outside the home? How can that be? But it is.

What kind of a leader could not foresee the situation in Vancouver? I do not believe he did not foresee it. I do not believe the minister in charge of the Treasury Board did not foresee it. I do not believe the parliamentary secretary did not foresee it. They chose not to do anything. That is serious. That makes them responsible for the situation we are in. It also means they are responsible to solve it.

Is it possible to solve it? Absolutely. It can be done in a number of ways. The government can use a patchwork approach as it did before and legislate these people back to work, only to defer the problem to rise again some other day. That is not a solution. There are solutions.

Is the government going to choose the real solutions, or is it going to choose again to do something so we can go through all this rigmarole again and in the process hurt farmers, consumers, the other people who are employed, the managers, the transportation systems and the businesses involved? Does the government want to do that all again? Why? Why can we not have a Prime Minister, a cabinet and Liberal backbenchers who say that it is time to use some common sense and manage the affairs of this country in a manner that helps everybody? Why can we not do that? I am sure we can.

Instead what we have from time to time is an absolute standoff caused by the arrogance and pomposity that comes from self-imposed self-sufficiency. It is a delusion of grandeur.

It can be done. I challenge the parliamentary secretary who led his caucus on the banks so well. He did a wonderful job. He knew how to work with the people. He showed leadership. We have not seen that kind of leadership anywhere on the front bench of that side of the House. Yet he is not the leader in that party and he never will be the way things are going now because he has too much common sense.

What are we going to do? I challenge us to apply common sense, apply what we know to be true and get serious about the things that really matter to us as people.

This is no great big, heavy duty secret. It does not take a rocket scientist to figure out what the mathematical formula is. We have to simply do what is right, help people to work together and make the conditions such that they can resolve their conflict in such a way that everybody is helped, instead of confrontation and an antagonism that builds which then takes years to heal and in some instances never heals. Why can we not do that? We can. All we have to is want to.

I challenge the parliamentary secretary, the President of the Treasury Board and the Prime Minister. Do they want to solve the problem in a permanent way or do they simply want to do another piecemeal operation which will only arise again in a different fashion and on another day?

Movement Of GrainEmergency Debate

9:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

I am satisfied that the debate has now been concluded. I therefore declare the motion carried.

Accordingly, this House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10 a.m. pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 9.26 p.m.)