Madam Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to rise in the House as a member from Nova Scotia to discuss the merits of Motion No. 79 put forward by the hon. member for Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, one of my neighbouring ridings.
I want to thank the hon. member for bringing the motion to debate in the House of Commons. I believe that health and safety is something that should be debated in the House of Commons on a regular basis.
On behalf of the New Democratic Party, and on behalf of workers across the country, I would like to offer a solemn prayer and hope in our hearts for the wives and children of the 80 miners who were recently killed in a blast in Ukraine. I believe I speak on behalf of all members of the House of Commons in sending our sincere condolences to everyone in Ukraine.
This motion works in conjunction with Bill C-259, a private member's bill which the hon. member for Halifax, the leader of the New Democratic Party, introduced concerning workers' health and safety rights and bringing those who are criminally responsible to justice.
What happened at Westray did not have to happen. Miners and their families are very concerned about their loved ones who go underground on a daily basis to earn their bread, and to pay their taxes so that we in the House of Commons can put forth legislation to protect them. For us to ignore their demands and wishes is a dereliction of our responsibilities and our duties. We simply cannot allow this to happen any longer.
There was an exhaustive Westray report which made some very serious and admirable recommendations, but that report is now three years old. What has the government done? Absolutely nothing. I wonder if it is waiting for the next mine disaster before doing something. Is it waiting for an election to be called before it enacts legislation? It seems that is the only thing that will make the federal Liberals move.
After a balanced and exhaustive report which was done to improve the lives and the health and safety of workers in the communities, especially in the extremities of the country outside Ottawa, the government sits on the report and does absolutely nothing.
Our party was founded on the principles of workers' safety and workers' rights. We started in the CCF, with J. S. Woodsworth, right up to the NDP led by the hon. member for Halifax. We have been fighting day in and day out with our provincial counterparts and our friends in the labour movement, with the CLC, to fight for and protect workers' rights throughout the country.
On average, three workers lose their lives on a daily basis. Three workers is three workers too many.
When I was growing up in Vancouver, 15 workers lost their lives working on the Portmann Bridge.
On behalf of all Nova Scotians and working people throughout the country, I encourage all political parties, especially those in government, to take heed of this very special motion, as well as the bill of my leader, Bill C-259, to take very seriously the recommendations for workers' rights and safety and to ignore the concerns of people like Clifford Frame and Peggy Whitte who have absolutely no moral leadership in the country, who want to extract wealth at the cheapest price possible, including that of labour, and who leave the country when a disaster happens. There was absolutely no moral leadership, and for any government to support those two people over workers' rights is absolutely disastrous and scandalous.
I encourage the entire House to support Motion No. 79 put forward by my hon. colleague from Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough.