That, notwithstanding any Standing Order or usual practice of this House, a bill in the name of the President of the Treasury Board, entitled an act to provide for the resumption and continuation of government services, shall be disposed of as follows:
Commencing when the said bill is read a first time and concluding when the said bill is read a third time, the House shall not adjourn except pursuant to a motion proposed by a Minister of the Crown, and no Private Members' Business shall be taken up;
The said bill may be read twice or thrice in one sitting;
After being read a second time, the said bill shall be referred to a Committee of the Whole; and
During consideration of the said bill, no division shall be deferred.
Mr. Speaker, it is with some regret that I must this afternoon introduce the subject at hand. Obviously the government is in a position now where it must bring an end to the strike and bring people back to work.
My colleague, the President of the Treasury Board, will be giving a detailed speech on what the bill, which was introduced earlier today, will contain as soon as the order that we have before us has been disposed of by the House.
Meanwhile, might I take this opportunity to thank the House for having agreed earlier today to the introduction of Bill C-76, the Government Services Act. This has allowed members to see the bill for a few hours more than they would normally have been able or entitled to. Hopefully it has succeeded in convincing at least a number of members of the House as to why the bill is so urgent.
Our government has settled collective agreements with some 87% of its civil servants. However, there is a number of groups with which a settlement has not proven to be possible. With a view to reaching a settlement the government was very flexible at the bargaining table. Again, the President of the Treasury Board will be speaking I am sure very eloquently on this issue when he makes his second reading speech.
Our last offer compared very favourably to what 87% of our unionized employees, including more than 90,000 PSAC members, in other words the same union, have already accepted. Unfortunately an agreement has not been possible with a smaller group who nevertheless provide services in critical areas.
Not only do they provide services in critical areas but they have picketed in a way that has prevented other people from attending to their regular duties and deprived Canadians of the services they need.
Strike activities have been affecting millions of Canadians, in particular Canadian farmers, Canadians who pay income tax or, perhaps more important if we look at it through the eyes of the taxpayers, those numerous Canadians who are expecting income tax refunds. Some 900,000 claimants are waiting for their benefits as we speak because we are unable to process these claims.
There is also an issue involving Canada's prison system which of course came to light last Friday through the media and we all know how important the preservation of that is for the security of Canadians and for providing for the security of those who are incarcerated.
Last week Mr. Speaker determined that an emergency debate on this issue was necessary. If no less than the Speaker of the House of Commons has decreed that this was an emergency to be debated on the floor of the House we in the government are treating this issue as an emergency and agree with what Mr. Speaker ruled on some days ago.
I quote the member for Selkirk—Interlake who stated on March 18 that grain farmers are facing one of the worst financial years in a decade: “Farmers are innocent third parties in this labour dispute”. These concerns were raised again on Friday, March 19 in the House by other hon. members. We agree this is important and urgent.
Today Revenue Canada offices were heavily picketed across the country, the national capital region, the Atlantic region, including St. John's, Sydney, Halifax, Summerside and Saint John, the Ontario region office at Belleville and the prairie region offices at Winnipeg and Edmonton. This adds to the problem at Revenue Canada that I was speaking of a while ago. This is disrupting and it is disrupting to many Canadians and sometimes Canadians least able to help themselves and who need our help and our support in this time of need.
This is why the government has today tabled a bill in the name of my colleague, the President of the Treasury Board, for the purpose of ordering 14,000 of these blue collar workers back to work and imposing a collective agreement.
The government is also calling on parliament to order some 4,500 correctional officers to remain on duty in the interests of public safety and to negotiate a collective agreement as quickly as possible in order to maintain the safety of inmates and of all Canadians.
For the government and for millions of Canadians, this is therefore an urgent matter, as the Speaker of the House pointed out last week. It is urgent that action be taken immediately.
Blue collar workers are responsible for the operation of government facilities and buildings throughout Canada, as well as health services in federal institutions. In addition, of course, when these people are picketing, they can prevent other equally important workers from delivering services to Canadians.
Numerous low income families and small and medium size businesses will have to wait for cheques to which they are entitled and which they urgently need.
After 10 weeks of rotating strikes, the impact on Canadians has, I would argue, become unacceptable.
As a member of parliament representing a rural constituency, I do not want to see my country lose sales of grain and other agricultural commodities. Our agricultural commodities are the pride of this country and we do not deserve to see the sales of these products diminish for any consideration.
This strike is having a serious effect on Canada's economy, particularly on grain farmers, small business, low income Canadians and all those who are counting on receiving their income tax refunds. Canadians are counting on us today. I ask the House to approve swiftly the motion before us. Having passed that motion, we will then proceed with the bill in the name of the President of the Treasury Board, Bill C-76. After that bill is in place we will be able to resume all the services that Canadians deserve.
I therefore call on the House to pass as quickly as possible today this motion that will enable us to pass Bill C-76 in order to restore the services to which Canadians are entitled.