House of Commons Hansard #207 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was indian.


Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

11 a.m.


Lorne Nystrom NDP Regina—Qu'Appelle, SK


That, in the opinion of this House, the government should increase by one week the basic employee vacation entitlement granted by Section 184 of the Canada Labour Code, to at least three weeks with vacation pay and, after six consecutive years of employment with the same employer, at least four weeks with vacation pay.

Mr. Speaker, I rise to say a few words about my motion to amend the Canada Labour Code.

The Canada Labour Code states that every Canadian who works in a company that falls under federal jurisdiction receives at least two weeks holidays and that after six years with the same employer the two weeks is increased to three weeks.

My motion would amend the Canada Labour Code to make sure everyone under federal jurisdiction receives three weeks holidays and after six years with the same employer they receive four weeks holidays.

This is something we should be debating in the House. I cannot recall a debate in the House on this for quite a while. It is something that would be very helpful to the Canadian population and to workers in general.

In a recent poll some 76% of the Canadian workforce agreed that we should have a four week holiday .

The motion today is to provoke a debate that we go from two weeks to three weeks and from three weeks to four weeks after six years with the same employer.

The Canada Labour Code covers some 1.2 million workers. The 1.2 million workers actually fall into a number of different areas. I want to mention some of the major areas that the Canada Labour Code covers in terms of workers: the air transport industry; banks; crown corporations; the federal public service; first nations people; the postal service, with some 62,000 or 63,000 employees; the broadcasting industry; railways; the trucking industry; water transport; shipping and communications; as well as a number of other areas. They fall under the Canada Labour Code in terms of holidays and would be covered by any kind of change or amendment as suggested by the motion.

When we look at other developed nations around the world, we find that most of them have more paid holidays than we do. In the European Union just recently there was an amendment to the regulations. In every country in the European Union the minimum vacation is now four weeks. If we look at the union itself, we find that the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, Belgium and the Netherlands have four weeks. Other countries, such as France, Sweden, Spain and Denmark, have a mandatory five week holiday. Austria has five weeks. Japan, which has become an economically developed country over the last 20 years or so, has a five week holiday.

This is different from Canada, where people get only two or three weeks. There is also a difference between us and a number of other developed countries in the European community, where there is a minimum of four or even five weeks. The latter is the case for France, Spain and other countries such as Japan.

It is interesting that when we do the research on this particular issue we find that in the United States, for example, there is no mandated minimum holiday period. The American workers have no right whatsoever to any kind of holiday except what they receive from their employers or what they get through a negotiated union contract. This is how we compare with the rest of the world. Moving from two weeks to three and from three weeks to four would put us more in step with much of the developed world in terms of what is happening around us.

I really believe that if workers had more time off it would be better and more productive for the economy. Workers are more productive when there is less fatigue and boredom. I believe it would be more competitive because workers in this country would be on a level playing field with workers in many other countries around the world.

I also believe that economic activity would increase. A good example of that is France. In France where workers have five weeks off we will find that many of them will be holidaying, travelling, touring, sightseeing, spending money in hotels, auberges, restaurants and tourist resorts. It is a stimulus to the economy in a place like France and many other countries around the world.

I also look at this from a health point of view with regard to stress. I realized when we started doing research on this that millions and millions of dollars were spent every year in this country and around the world because of stress. A longer vacation would take some of the stress off working people and families in this country. A study done recently showed that people who had annual vacations had 30% less heart disease than people who did not take annual vacations. Therefore, the quality of life would increase.

In 1999 there was a study done by Health Canada on work/life conflicts of the Canadian people. It was discovered work/life conflicts cost the health care system some $425.8 million per year. That is a lot of money each and every year.

How do we compare to the provinces in terms of the Canada Labour Code? The Canada Labour Code covers 1.2 million people. All other people who work in this country are covered by the various provincial labour codes. There are some variances between the provinces.

I am proud to say that my province of Saskatchewan is the only province that provides a minimum three week holiday for a worker covered by the Saskatchewan labour code. After 10 years in Saskatchewan people get a four week holiday if they still work for the same employer. There may have been a change in Quebec. Recently Quebec employees received a two week holiday and then three weeks after five years.

There may have been a recent change in Quebec, where the situation is now the same as in the province of Saskatchewan. In all provinces other than Saskatchewan and Quebec, workers get a minimum of two weeks holiday.

In British Columbia, Alberta and Manitoba, they get three weeks after five years service. In New Brunswick, all workers get three weeks after eight years. In Newfoundland, it is three weeks after 15 years with the same employer. Fifteen years is a long time, but after that they get three weeks. In Nova Scotia, Ontario and P.E.I. workers get only two weeks. After 5, 6, 10 or 15 years of service, Ontario workers still get only two weeks.

I am surprised in particular by Ontario, an industrialized province that prides itself on being relatively progressive and avant garde and yet allows for only two weeks of holidays. According to the labour code in Ontario an employee could work at a job like Ontario Hydro for 10, 15, 20 or 25 years and get only two weeks of holidays per year. Of course because of collective bargaining and the power and influence of the trade union movement in Ontario, Ontario Hydro's workers have much more than two weeks of holidays. However the government is laggard and way behind in terms of additional holiday pay.

It is about time we looked at amending the Canada Labour Code to raise the minimum vacation pay from two weeks to three weeks. After six years the minimum could be raised from three to four weeks. This would put the Canadian people on a more level playing field with other countries around the world. It would alleviate a great deal of stress. It would be easier on the health care system which is costing an awful lot of money, partly because of the stress of the modern day workplace.

Vacation pay is defined as 4% of annual wages or 6% after 6 consecutive years of employment with the same employer. We could afford it. It would stimulate the economy and make it more productive. It would make the Canadian people happier. It would create a less stressful and more healthy workplace and nation. All these things are positive.

Through my talks with the trade union movement around the country and with Canadians both inside and outside the trade union movement I know the time has come to launch this progressive movement. It has already happened in many countries around the world.

Let us imagine this. French workers have five weeks of holidays. Many countries around the world have a shorter work week. We should be moving toward a shorter work week with no reduction in pay. We have technology, automation and computers. We have all these things which are supposed to lessen the work burden of the Canadian people and provide them with more quality and leisure time to spend with their families and friends or pursue hobbies and other interests. However it seems a lot of the technology has added to the work time of the Canadian people and made life more stressful and difficult for many.

I hope parliament will take this idea, refer it to the labour committee or whatever relevant committee of the House, and pursue it in legislation so that when we come back in the fall we can amend the Canada Labour Code in a way that is positive for each and every Canadian worker who falls under the jurisdiction of the federal government. If the federal government did this it would provide an example to all the provinces to change their own labour codes so we could give Canadian workers the break they deserve for building the country and making it the great nation it is today.

I look for the support of all members of parliament from all parties for the idea. If we could pursue it in the fall and make changes to the labour code I am sure the Canadian people would be happy parliament had become more productive and was doing something on their behalf.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

11:15 a.m.


Judi Longfield Liberal Whitby—Ajax, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to join in the debate on Motion No. 23 which asks that we amend the Canada Labour Code to increase employee vacation entitlements as set out in section 184 of part 3 of the code.

On the surface it looks like a fairly straightforward matter: Change the law and everyone will get another week off. Unfortunately, as is so often the case in matters that relate to the Canada Labour Code, the issues the motion raises are not that simple. They are quite complex. Because it is a complex matter we should not make changes on the spur of the moment. We must think carefully about the implications of the changes proposed by Motion No. 23.

For example, in our system of shared constitutional jurisdiction for labour matters what would be the implications of the proposals on the provinces? How do employers feel about the proposed changes? What kinds of changes are employees looking for? Are they looking at other ways to balance their work and family lives? As responsible legislators we must ask about the economic costs. These are just a few of the questions that come to mind when we look at the motion.

The hon. member opposite must realize that we need to consult widely before making major changes to labour legislation. Consultations must include those who would be most affected by the proposed changes. Before we make changes to Canada's labour legislation one of our first steps is to make sure the proposals make sense to those on whom they would impact.

This is the attitude we bring to the motion. We need to think carefully about the implications. We need to know what other stakeholders think before we know whether it is the correct way to go. This is not to say the hon. member's proposal is a bad one. From a political perspective I can well understand why he would bring forward a motion like this.

However we in the Government of Canada must think in terms of the broadest public interest. We must make certain any proposal we agree to has been discussed with other stakeholders in the labour community. We call this consultation. It is an approach the government has used successfully in the past when making changes to the Canada Labour Code. We followed the consultative approach when we brought in amendments to part 1 of the code, the section on labour relations. We followed the consultative approach when we followed up with amendments to part 2 of the code, the section on workplace health and safety. It is the approach we will again follow when considering changes to part 3 of the code, the part governing workplace standards such as vacation entitlements.

It does not make sense to amend part 3 of the code in piecemeal fashion. We do not want to change section 184 today, another section later, and other sections of part 3 at another time. It would make more sense to bring all the proposals for changes into an overall consultation process. This has worked well in the past. This way the pros and cons of individual proposals could be considered in the overall context of the stakeholders which include workers and their unions, employers and the business community, provincial and territorial governments, and the federal minister of labour and the Government of Canada.

If the government ignored the need to consult stakeholders and moved unilaterally to increase paid vacation time for those under federal jurisdiction it would be creating other unwelcome problems. Unilaterally raising minimum standards for paid vacations for workers under federal jurisdiction, who comprise some 10% of the national workforce, could put unwelcome pressure on provincial governments to make changes in their standards before they were ready to do so.

Let us remember that under the constitution each province and territory sets the standards it considers most appropriate for its circumstances and for the workplaces under its jurisdiction. Many provinces do not provide for three weeks paid vacation after six years of continuous employment.

Let us also remember that the provisions of the code are minimum standards. Through the collective bargaining process employers and employees are free to negotiate whatever amount of vacation they choose. Many employers under federal jurisdiction have already agreed to vacation entitlements that are the same or more than the motion calls for. These vacation periods have been negotiated, not imposed by law.

Let us also remember that there is currently a situation of harmony in federal-provincial legislation governing vacation entitlements. Not every province has the same standards but there is a sense of equilibrium in the system which a unilateral move at the federal level would disrupt. As representatives of the federal level of government we must think about the federal-provincial dimension of the issue. We must be careful not to do anything that would jeopardize this relationship.

While I understand the member's interest in increasing the amount of paid vacation for workers under federal jurisdiction, the motion is premature and I cannot support it at this time.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

11:20 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Rob Anders Canadian Alliance Calgary West, AB

Mr. Speaker, I could get up, speak to the motion of my hon. colleague from the NDP and tell him where I disagree with him. However since it is not votable I do not see the point. I will instead speak about the government's response to his idea.

The hon. member has put forward a private member's motion which is fairly simple. The government across the way tells us it is complex. Why does it say that? It does not want to deal with the issue. The issue is not complex. It is rather simple. It could not be any simpler than the amendment my hon. colleague has talked about today. The government is hiding. It does not want to come out and flagrantly say it is opposed to the idea because it knows my hon. colleague will go to his constituents and constituents in Ontario and say the Liberal government did not want to go for an increase with regard to paid benefits.

Rather than coming out and saying it is opposed to the motion, the Liberal government is trying to hide. It says it is a provincial matter, it is complex and all these things. That is a red herring. I do not think the government believes that at all. It is only opposing the motion because the former finance minister would be worried about the cost. Admittedly, I too have concerns in that regard.

At the end of day the government is worried about looking like the bad guy. It does not want to lose votes to the NDP over the issue. As a result it is taking the stand that the issue is complex and involves provincial jurisdiction. Frankly, the government is hiding. It is running from the issue.

I have legitimate concerns with regard to the motion, but for the government it is purely politics. There is no principled stand behind the government's opposition to the motion. I have my reasons for opposing it which I could go into. However the government is not even allowing the hon. member on this side of the House to have a votable private member's motion. I hope we will see changes in that. The government does not even allow its own backbenchers to have private members' business votable. It is a shame.

I say to citizens sitting in the gallery and watching at home that there are all sorts of great ideas their members of parliament could be proposing in this place. However the government across the way does not want to allow for private members' business. It says Motion No. 23 would make things complex. It says it would make all sorts of piecemeal changes and not allow things to be changed holus bolus. However the government believes in the status quo. It is opposed to change. That is part of the problem. The only way government members want to see changes is if they somehow benefit them electorally. That is the real problem.

As my hon. colleague from the NDP knows, I could come up with all sorts of reasons for disagreeing with his labour polices and put forward some of our own. However I do not wish to because he was not allowed the opportunity to have a vote on the motion.

Once in every parliament every member of this place ought to be able to put forward a bill that is votable by every member of the House. Even small, piecemeal changes to legislation would help build a better mousetrap and improve legislation. Members could make useful amendments with respect to issues the government overlooks or ignores.

Hon. members put time and energy into matters of private members' business. When the government comes into this place and says it will not allow a vote or will kibosh a motion without having any mechanism in place for democratic accountability, it is absolutely unacceptable. It is the reason we need to see a change in this place.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

11:30 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

I would like the hon. member to debate the motion that is before the House.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

11:30 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Rob Anders Canadian Alliance Calgary West, AB

Mr. Speaker, the motion is adding or tweaking a particular piece of legislation to give federal employees more paid vacation leave. That is what it is about.

I would like to see the matter votable. I would vote against it. I would like to see more than myself voting against it and my colleague from the NDP voting for it is the government members across the way taking a clear stand on it. We will not get that today. We will get the one obligatory speech that the hon. member just gave and other government members will talk about how they have problems with the process. It has nothing to do with the process whatsoever. The hon. member and her colleagues are worried about the opportunity for the NDP to cut into their electoral base with unions, particularly public sector unions in Ontario. That is the real issue. I see a couple of members across the way nodding their heads.

I know where I would stand. I know where the NDP would stand on this issue, but the government is avoiding it. The government is running from the issue. It is hiding on an issue which is fairly clear cut issue. Rather than deal with the issue of increased paid time for federal employees, government members will hide on it and tell us that it is the fault of the provinces, that it is too complex to be dealt with and that it is a piecemeal amendment and all these types of things because they do not want to hurt their electoral base in Ontario into which the NDP could cut. It is strictly optics.

I could talk today on all sorts of principled objections that I have to this piece of legislation, but at the end of the day it really would not matter because my NDP colleague has not been allowed the opportunity to have this as a votable item. At the end of the day we all know that we will get up and give our speeches. The hon. member will not have an opportunity to put this forward in an actual amendment or a change to the law because the government does not want to have the issue addressed. It does not want to allow private members or members period in this place to vote on it. That is a crying shame. It is one of the failings of the government.

There are some problems right now on the government side as I am sure all members well know. There are camps where members are trying to slit each other's throats over the power hungry grabbing for the leadership, the prime ministership. This directly applies because if there were mechanisms for backbench members to voice the concerns of their constituents, if they were allowed to come up with real amendments to legislation like this one today, even though I would be opposed to it, if they were allowed to put even one bill per session--

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

11:30 a.m.


Karen Redman Liberal Kitchener Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I would respectfully raise the issue of relevancy in that speaker's discourse.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

11:30 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

The hon. member still has two minutes left in his speech. We are eagerly awaiting his opinion on whether or not we should get more holidays in Canada.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

11:30 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Rob Anders Canadian Alliance Calgary West, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would be opposed to it because it is more regulation. That being said, I could come up with all the reasons why I am opposed to it. However the important thing today is not so much that I am opposed to it. I am opposed because I am not allowed to register with my vote in this place. That is something for which the government is responsible.

I will get back to the point I was making. If the government allowed backbench MPs to come up with legislation and have it votable in this place, those backbench MPs would not be so frustrated. Those backbench would not be clambering around the former finance minister looking to oust the current Prime Minister because they would feel they had some voice in this place. However when they are relegated to the backbench, especially some of the ones who are more capable and know more about the portfolios than those who sit on the front benches, that irks them. I see that in hallway after hallway, committee after committee. I see the frustration that the government system causes among the Liberal benches. Instead of trying to fix it, the government tries to bury it. It tries to run and hide from the issues. That is a shame.

I know I am touching on a nerve. I know government backbenchers are frustrated. I see it in committees and I see it in the hallways when I talk to them. They are frustrated and rightfully so, members like the one who stood but she was not in her place. I would love it if she had a chance to comment. I would love it if she had a chance to vote on the bill today, but she will not because of her own government. I would love the opportunity for her or any other member on that side to put forward a votable, private member's piece of business in every parliament.

I leave it at that and say that I am opposed to it. Members know some of the other reasons why.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

11:30 a.m.


Monique Guay Bloc Laurentides, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to start by asking my colleagues to hear me through until the end, rather than interrupting. I sense that the female members of the Liberal caucus are hesitant today. Given that I have been the Bloc Quebecois labour critic for many years, I am quite sure they will be interested in hearing all that I have to say.

Allow me to read Motion No. 23. The motion states, and I quote:

That, in the opinion of this House, the government should increase by one week the basic employee vacation entitlement granted by Section 184 of the Canada Labour Code, to at least three weeks with vacation pay and, after six consecutive years of employment with the same employer, at least four weeks with vacation pay.

I remind the House that this is not a votable motion, however I believe that it should be votable. The Bloc Quebecois supports this motion. I think that it is an innovative measure, one which should be incorporated into the Canada Labour Code. This exists in Quebec. My colleague mentioned earlier that they have it in his province as well. It in incomprehensible that this has not yet been added to the Canada Labour Code.

The government seems very reticent about this. I have a great deal of respect for my colleague, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources Development, and for my colleague who chairs the Standing Committee on Human Resources Development. I know that the latter is bound by her government and must act on behalf of the government. I know that this must be difficult at times, particularly in the case of a measure such as this.

She mentioned earlier that there were costs associated with moving from two to three or four weeks, but these costs are not borne by the government. It is business and business owners who will pay. When employees have done exceptional work, when they have been a member of a team for ten years, they deserve paid vacation, or vacations that make sense, that are worthwhile. These people have the right to rest. We all take vacations during the summer.

In Quebec, after five years of employment, workers are entitled to three weeks of vacation, and to sick leave. Why are things always more complicated at the federal level? Why can we not modernize the legislation and say that, after five years of employment, three weeks of vacation is a good thing? Again, the jurisdictions are such that a Quebec woman who has been working for a company for five years will get three weeks of vacation if she comes under Quebec's jurisdiction, but will not enjoy the same benefits if she comes under federal jurisdiction. This is unacceptable.

I will discuss other issues and I hope I will not be interrupted. I want to make a comparison. I want to talk about preventive withdrawal for pregnant and nursing women. Everyone will say that it is my pet peeve. Indeed, I really care about this issue. We have been trying for 10 years to settle this issue in the Canada Labour Code, but the government has always rejected the idea.

When we reviewed part II of the Canada Labour Code, I tried to move a major amendment in committee to protect women who are under federal jurisdiction. The amendment was rejected.

In the House, amendments or changes to the Canada Labour Code are often rejected under the pretext that we are not reviewing that specific part of the code. This is no excuse. It is a matter of making a simple amendment to a section. There is no need to review the whole part, we just have to amend to the Canada Labour Code. It is not very complicated, in fact, it is very simple and it would not cost the government anything. It is not the government that would foot the bill. It is the companies, which, in any case, benefit from the fact that they have employees who do a great job for them. It would not be a big deal but, again, the government says no.

I want to go back to the issue of preventive withdrawal. I was promised that, perhaps, part III would be reviewed. However, I have no idea when this will be done. I have been pressuring the government for months and years. I was told that they are considering this possibility. Those were the words that were used. They are “considering the possibility” of reviewing part III of the Canada Labour Code.

I was told that they would perhaps get to it during the next parliamentary session and that, at that time, preventive withdrawal for pregnant women would perhaps be taken into consideration in part III of the Canada Labour Code.

In the meantime, there are young women who are not benefiting from this right now. There are women who are working in prisons and whose physicians feel they should be allowed preventive withdrawal because they are working in an environment which is not easy, with prisoners who are no angels; anything could happen to them.

When these women are pregnant, they should be able to exercise preventive withdrawal in order to be able to have a normal pregnancy and not to have to worry about the baby. This is still not the case and it is 2002. I wonder when the government is going to wake up and bring in major changes.

We have just reviewed the Employment Equity Act. We tried to make recommendations. I hope that the minister, who will receive our report, will take this into account, because I for one agreed with the government. We tabled a report which found the Bloc Quebecois and the Liberal government on common ground. We successfully tabled a report. In any event, we supported the government. I hope that the Minister of Labour will take this into account and that she will take our recommendations seriously.

The problem here is that when we put forward amendments and make suggestions for changing things and improving the situation for workers because it is a priority, the government says “no”. It gives excuses. “It is expensive; we cannot do this now. We are not reviewing parts I, II or III of the Canada Labour Code right now, so we cannot make this change”.

Hold on now, nothing is graven in stone. We are here precisely for the purpose of making improvements, making changes, to ensure workers of better protection and a greater enjoyment of life. We all have lives outside work. These people need time for their families. It is important to have three weeks. Having more time for family and other activities when a person has been some time with the same employer is very attractive. It is normal to have that time.

However, it seems that to the people here it does not seem normal. It seems that it is all being left up to the employer. If we, as legislators, cannot manage to set some limits, to say “This is the minimum you must give your employees”, employers will not respect any rules. We have a duty as legislators to set limits, to tell them “This is the minimum. As employers, you must comply with this minimum requirement”.

I introduced an anti-scab bill in this House precisely so as to speed up negotiations between employers and employees. It is inconceivable that, in 2002, there can be a company like Cargill, a company where workers have been out on the street for 26 months—that is two years plus two months—and unable to negotiate. They have no negotiating power whatsoever. Families and lives are being destroyed.

Now, in 2002, the federal government is incapable of passing anti-scab legislation. I trust that this bill will make it through the draw and will be debated, because it is of vital importance.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

11:35 a.m.

An hon. member

And that it will be voted on.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

11:35 a.m.


Monique Guay Bloc Laurentides, QC

Yes, it must be votable, and I will do my utmost to see that it is.

I support my colleague, because this is an appropriate and proactive measure. It is a measure that costs the government nothing; it is wrong to say that it does. It costs them nothing, and would give them a fine image with the public, if they were to make the decision to tell workers “Yes, we will defend you. Yes, we will enact regulations that show you some respect. Yes, we will move on drafting such regulations”.

In closing, I wish to congratulate my colleague. Once again, I hope that other members of all parties will be introducing positive measures for workers. They can rest assured that I will support such measures and will speak in favour of them.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

11:40 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Norman E. Doyle Progressive Conservative St. John's East, NL

Mr. Speaker, I want to say a few words on the motion. It states:

That, in the opinion of this House, the government should increase by one week the basic employee vacation entitlement granted by Section 184 of the Canada Labour Code, to at least three weeks with vacation pay and, after six consecutive years of employment with the same employer, at least four weeks with vacation pay.

I consider the motion to be a good one. I have no hesitation at all in supporting the motion. Under the Canada Labour Code an employee in a federally regulated industry is entitled to a two week vacation with pay at 4% of annual wages and three weeks after six years at 6% of annual wages. Most Canadian workers fall under provincial labour jurisdiction and in that regard standards across the nation will vary.

All provinces, except Saskatchewan, mandate the 4% two week standard. Saskatchewan requires three weeks vacation pay which rises to four weeks after 10 years. In the province of Newfoundland and Labrador we upped the ante to three weeks paid vacation after 15 years of service and in New Brunswick it rose to 6% or three weeks after eight years.

Ontario, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island have no increases above the basic two week standard, no matter how long a person works for a given employer. There are many different standards across the country depending on which province one happens to live in but we are still below the standard of many other countries in the world. The member pointed to the European experience and he made some good points. In the European community the member countries 20 paid work days off each year.

If we look at Japan, Sweden and Spain they mandate 25 days of paid vacation per year. That is a real indication of the importance that these countries attach to a good leisure vacation period. Not surprisingly the United States has no minimum standard for vacation pay. It would probably be said that the Europeans have had a long period with social tendencies and as a result they have longer vacations periods. The United States, except in matters of softwood lumber and agriculture, is a free enterprise society with not a trace of socialism in sight.

In defence of the Europeans they have a mindset that says there is more to life than the raw pursuit of profit. They feel the quality of life is as important as the quantities of things that we have in life. Indeed, even the Japanese, renowned as a nation of workaholics, have mandated a 25 day paid vacation per year. It is an interesting and civilized way to go about things. I have read that many Japanese workers are often forced to take their vacation period, which is an acknowledgment that someone in authority in that country knows and understands the importance of leisure time in a well-balanced life.

The member moving the motion makes a good point with respect to the implications on our health care budget when we talk about vacation time and the importance of it. He made reference to a 1999 health care report that stated that doctor's visits relating to work-life conflict cost approximately $425 million per year. I read that report and noticed that it did not include visits to specialists, hospital stays and so on. I would imagine that instead of $425 million it would probably cost in the neighbourhood of twice that amount, maybe $800 million.

More than one-third of Canadians describe themselves as workaholics and experience high levels of stress and job burnout. It is not in the best interest of our nation for people to avoid taking annual vacations. Research shows that people who take regular vacations have a 20% lower risk of death, and death by heart attack drops by 30%. That is an interesting fact. Death by heart attack drops by 30% among people who take regular vacation periods.

Many diseases are self-induced through our lifestyles. Our inability or reluctance to step back and take some downtime is phenomenal. Governments, whether provincial or federal, should be looking for ways to lower the cost of health care. Some statistics coming out of health care reports point to a way of doing that.

There are those who might say that longer vacation periods would reduce productivity. The countries I mentioned a few moments ago with longer vacation periods are not what one would refer to as economic basket cases. They are modern industrial democracies with a high standard of living compared to many areas in the world. Unfortunately, the North American way lately seems to be increasing productivity by downsizing personnel, laying people off and placing a greater burden on people who are left to run any given business.

In this day and age the drive for productivity is not necessarily a survival strategy. Companies that do well want to do even better. There appears to be no limit to the appetite for profit, and I do not believe any of us are against companies making a profit. We should encourage companies to look at ways to not necessarily reduce profit, but look at the connection between a good healthy worker who has a reasonable amount of leisure time and the well-being of the business itself.

A recent article in the Globe and Mail written by a professor of management studies at McGill University referred to the tendency to pursue productivity to extreme levels. He referred to it as a ticking time bomb. We cannot cut personnel and increase profits indefinitely. Sooner or later the whole thing will come crashing down around our ears. We are all aware of the old saying “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”. In this particular instance, it could be said that all work and no play could make him a sick boy as well.

I am not opposed to the motion put forward by the hon. member. As a Conservative, an extra week of paid vacation in our fast paced world is not a radical notion in any way. If we do not slow down and smell the roses, our relatives at our funeral will be smelling the roses for us. I do support this motion.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

11:50 a.m.


Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to join the debate on the motion brought forward by my colleague from Regina—Qu'Appelle on a compelling and important issue.

I am disappointed in some of the comments on the motion from some of the speakers. By the same token I am heartened and encouraged by some of the remarks that I have heard from members of the Bloc Quebecois and Progressive Conservative Party.

Many of those speakers pointed to the social benefits of an increase in paid holiday time. One member stated that there was nothing wrong with being able to get to know one's children. Just because a person works in a day to day job to put food on the table, there are additional secondary benefits to more time spent with one's family and more time to develop as a person as well, as a more rounded individual, through leisure time and activities.

One thing that did not come up in some of the debate was the obvious benefit in terms of job creation, in spreading the work opportunities throughout the workforce. One more paid week of vacation spread across the public sector workforce or the workforce under the Canada Labour Code would create enormous opportunities for others to enter the productive workforce. I am thinking specifically, given the nature of the debate later today, of the aboriginal community. Even though Canada enjoys a relatively low level of unemployment, that level of unemployment is epidemic in the aboriginal community. We need to create opportunities and vacancies for aboriginal people to join the mainstream workforce. This reduction of work time is one way that we could observe that.

In the 19th century Samuel Gompers, founder of the American Federation of Labour, stated:

As long as there is one person who wants work and cannot find it, the hours of work are too long.

It can be said that in many workplaces under the federal jurisdiction unionized workers do enjoy four, five or even six weeks of vacation time because of negotiated collective agreements. That is not the norm for many people under federal jurisdiction. There are no unions in the banking sector and in a large part of the communications sector.

Members were using the United States as an example. It has no guaranteed paid holidays, while its rate of unionization is at 12%. In the Canadian workforce 30% of workers are unionized and can enjoy the protective umbrella of a collective agreement.

We have heard about the health benefits, the reduction in stress and the more productive workforce. Workers do not have to take time off for personal needs nearly as much, whether caring for the family, dealing with their home life issues, or dealing with a dental appointment. With a reduced workweek the productivity actually spikes because people are taking less time off for personal days. The European community experience has been, even for those countries that have gone to a 35 hour workweek and six weeks paid vacation, that productivity has gone up and that these changes meant no loss in pay.

There are numerous benefits to this point of view and mindset. If we are to enjoy the gains in profits and productivity that we have made over 20 good years, as far as the economy goes, these benefits should be passed on to employees in terms of quality of life issues, whether it means a shorter workweek or more weeks of paid vacation per year. The motion was put forward not in terms of some kind of selfish grab so that workers could have more leisure time. It was put forward for all the best of intentions, that we be a healthier and more robust and productive economy with a workforce that could enjoy more paid vacation.

I would like to cite the example of Sweden. Sweden has six weeks of paid vacation as the norm but it also has 16 days of paid education leave above and beyond holiday time so that workers can expand their skills in a job related way or adopt other hobbies and skills to develop as well rounded individuals. That is the kind of environment that we would like to see promoted in Canada.

It is a timely and topical debate for the House of Commons. As we keep raising it, we hope it will capture the imagination of Canadian workers and the Canadian public to adopt this progressive motion.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

11:55 a.m.


Lorne Nystrom NDP Regina—Qu'Appelle, SK

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank people for participating in this debate today. This issue of increasing the vacation pay from two weeks to three and three weeks to four after six years with one single employer is an idea we should have been discussing a long time ago in the House of Commons. I am glad to have some support for the motion in the House of Commons from the Bloc Quebecois and the Progressive Conservative Party. I am very disappointed in the Liberal Party across the way, which did not take a stand one way or the other but talked about the need for consultation. Of course there is a need for consultation and I did a lot of consultation before I presented this motion.

I said in my remarks that I hoped the idea behind the motion would be picked up by the government and parliament itself and referred to the relevant committee. We can change the law in the fall or next spring after hearings by the relevant committee of the House of Commons. We are not against consultation. The Liberals are hiding behind a smokescreen when they talk about consultation.

Also, this is not very complicated. We would be amending the federal Canada Labour Code and providing some leadership to the provinces. I do not think any province is really going to object to this. Some of them already have moved in this direction. Saskatchewan and Quebec are two good examples of this, where there is a minimum of three weeks of holidays, moving to four weeks after a certain number of years. Other provinces like Ontario should be given a push. They should be prodded into changing their labour codes. This is a simple thing to do. It is the proper thing to do.

I am sure there is going to be some opposition from the far right in the country. Some members of the Alliance Party might object to this because they do not seem to be very interested in anything but the bottom line, but I can tell members that quality of life is extremely important. The bottom line is not as important as quality of life. We will find that when quality of life improves productivity is going to improve in this country as well. It has already happened in Europe. When we have improved productivity and a better quality of life the bottom line is going to be just fine as well.

The member for Winnipeg North Centre also mentioned the increase in economic activity when people have a longer vacation period and a shorter workday or workweek. This would also create more jobs for other people who are currently unemployed. I mentioned the example of greater economic activity in France, where people travel on vacation, stay in hotels, tour, visit restaurants and stimulate the economy because they have time to do that. Money keeps circulating throughout French society.

This is something that provides a boost to the economy. It increases the quality of life. It is a good, civil, progressive thing to do. It is going to be a productive thing to do. We would be in sync, then, with more of the developing countries of the world. This is the kind of direction in which we should be going. It applies to 1.2 million Canadians under the Canada Labour Code. It provides a good example and a good stimulus to many of the other provinces around the country. This is where we should go.

The trade union movement has done a great job of negotiating long holidays for workers right across the country, but only 30% of Canadian workers are represented by the trade union movement. We have a lot of workers who fall between the cracks. The banking industry, the financial sector industry, is the best example of that. People work long hours at relatively low pay for huge institutions that make an awful lot of money. In fact many of the banks are still making billions of dollars and have been paying very little in taxes over the sweep of the last four or five years, yet the bank teller who works in those banks pays more than her or his fair share of taxes. These people have no guarantee of anything more than a two week or three week holiday after six years. There is no union. The benefits sometimes are very shabby and the protection is not there. The least we can do is amend the Canada Labour Code to provide some of those benefits.

I once again appeal to the members across the way to pick up this idea and refer it to a parliamentary committee. If they want consultation to be more thorough, let us have our consultation. We can consult with the provinces, trade unions, employers, employees and the people of the country and come back in the fall with a report recommending changes to the Canada Labour Code that would be good for the country and good for the people of Canada. That is what parliament is supposed to do. That is what this place is supposed to do. We are supposed to stimulate debate in the House, provide and promote new ideas and, through the parliamentary committees and the House of Commons itself, change legislation for the Canadian people.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business


The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

The time provided for the consideration of private members' business has now expired. As the motion has not been designated as a votable item, the order is dropped from the order paper.

Bill C-61. On the Order: Government Orders

June 14, 2002--the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development--Second reading and reference to the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs, Northern Development and Natural Resources of Bill C-61, an act respecting leadership selection, administration and accountability of Indian bands, and to make related amendments to other acts.

First Nations Governance ActGovernment Orders


Kenora—Rainy River Ontario


Bob Nault LiberalMinister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Mr. Speaker, I move:

That Bill C-61, an act respecting leadership selection, administration and accountability of Indian bands, and to make related amendments to other acts, be referred forthwith to the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs, Northern Development and Natural Resources.

Mr. Speaker, I am rising in the House today to speak about the first nations governance act, a bill I introduced a few days ago. With the consent of the House, I would like to refer the bill to committee immediately, prior to second reading. I would like to explain why I am making this request, but in order to do that I think we should take a few minutes to discuss the bill itself.

The first nations governance act is the foundation of our work together in building a prosperous and sustainable future for first nations. I believe the bill meets the government's commitment in the Speech From the Throne to work with first nations to develop the tools they need to build a better future for themselves and their communities.

The current Indian Act denies band governments the most fundamental tools needed to manage their own affairs in a modern society: tools for governance, tools necessary to build strong economies and healthy societies, tools other communities in Canada take for granted.

Our government has committed to strengthening our relationship with first nations people. As I have said, the bill has been written by over 10,000 first nations people who worked in partnership and in good faith with my government. We see this legislation as the foundation for a series of legislative initiatives that will help improve the lives of first nations people and their communities.

With the launch of Bill C-61, we are proposing to establish a new statutory and regulatory framework for first nations governance, a framework that would put the authority and decision making power that the Indian Act took away 126 years ago back into the hands of first nations people.

The bill provides for the creation of governance systems for first nations by first nations. It represents a fundamental shift away from the colonial approach of the Indian Act. This legislation will replace the roadblocks of the old Indian Act with modern tools of governance and a bridge to self-government. Let me be clear right from the start: Bill C-61 would not replace existing treaties or affect self-government and treaty negotiations, although it will help us move forward on both fronts. Neither would the act have any impact on the crown's fiduciary responsibilities.

With that, let me get back to some of the fundamental calls for change that have resulted in the proposed legislation before the House today. We all agree that the status quo is not acceptable. Certainly both first nations people and all Canadians recognize the need for change, and increasingly they also recognize the link between good governance and socioeconomic development.

Further, in the supreme court's decision in the Corbiere case, the court used the charter to strike down the on reserve residency requirement for voting in Indian Act elections. Now we have the amended the Indian band election regulations under the act to facilitate off reserve voting in the short term. However, we were faced with the choice of modifying only the elections regime under the Indian Act or trying to address the larger issues that face first nations through improving governance under the Indian Act. The bill reflects the feedback we received from first nations, our Speech From the Throne commitments and our decision to work with first nations to address the larger Corbiere decision issues.

We also acknowledge that self-government is the goal for many first nations. In fact, it is also the goal of this government, but it is important to remember that self-government must be negotiated and that negotiations do take time. In fact, at the current rate of negotiations, we are still 60 years away from the last self-government agreement.

While we continue to work toward self-government at over 80 negotiating tables with many first nations, we must not forget those who are not yet ready to come to the table. Are we to abandon efforts of capacity building and improving quality of life in their communities? Definitely not. This is yet another reason why this proposed first nations governance act is so important: to build a bridge to self-government together with those communities that are not yet at the negotiating table.

Part of that bridge is the proposed legislation before us today. It has been drafted with extensive input from first nations people. The bill reflects our dialogue with the people we serve and their feedback. When we launched the first nations governance initiative over a year ago, we purposely set out to consult with the people who would be most directly affected by this legislation.

First nations people understand the connection between effective governance and economic progress. They realize that leaving the Indian Act as it is means leaving their communities without the tools they need to make the progress they want. More than two-thirds of first nations people recently polled by Ekos said that citizens should have a voice in decisions affecting them and 71% agreed that providing the tools for effective governance will improve conditions for social and economic development. Just as important in the same poll, only 13% supported completely scrapping the act and a full 86% supported changing the act.

The proposed first nations governance act has been built from the ground up. It is based on the most extensive consultations ever undertaken with first nations. We held an unprecedented 470 consultations and information sessions with more than 200 first nations communities. Ten thousand first nations people participated. Just for comparison, when the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples held its meetings, it took four years to complete less than 100 meetings. When I state that 10,000 first nations people participated in governance discussions, we must keep in mind that if proportionately the same number of Canadians were consulted it would add up to nearly a million voices.

We also consulted with chiefs, both independently and through their affiliation with the Assembly of First Nations. We created a joint ministerial advisory committee made up of representatives from the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples and the National Aboriginal Women's Association to provide technical advice and help ensure that the legislation reflects the needs of the people it will serve.

In short, this process and this bill must be about people, not politics. It must be about sharing best practices and about focusing on progress, not problems. It is precisely because the first nations governance act was built on their input and advice that I am therefore asking today that the House support a motion to refer this legislation to committee for its review before second reading. This will enable committee members to examine the principle of the bill prior to second reading. For those who worked with us and those who want to join in the process, it will provide the maximum opportunity to provide input. In other words, I believe that the committee will hear important testimony from the people and I feel that the committee must have the ability to change the bill to ensure that it reflects the needs and requests of those who come to speak before it.

Mr. Speaker, you are giving me the one minute sign, but I have an unlimited amount of time, do I not?

First Nations Governance ActGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

According to Standing Order 73, as the case was explained when you started your speech, all speeches were to be 10 minutes. I noted that you have quite a bit more to deliver, which is why I gave you the one minute sign.

Having said that, could I ask for unanimous consent for the minister to finish his speech?

First Nations Governance ActGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.

Some hon. members


First Nations Governance ActGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.


Bob Nault Liberal Kenora—Rainy River, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have about 10 minutes left in a 20 minutes speech.

First Nations Governance ActGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

I believe I heard the minister say that he thought it was 20 minutes. The Chair is in a bit of a bind here. I really do not know what to do unless he asks for unanimous consent to take 20 minutes.

On a point of order, the hon. member for Charlesbourg--Jacques-Cartier.

First Nations Governance ActGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.


Richard Marceau Bloc Charlesbourg—Jacques-Cartier, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to give my consent to the minister, provided the other parties can have as much time for their speeches.

First Nations Governance ActGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

I think the best way to proceed would be to allow the minister to complete his remarks and at the same time give the first speakers of all parties 20 minutes to deliver their speeches.

Is it agreed?

First Nations Governance ActGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.

Some hon. members


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12:10 p.m.


Bob Nault Liberal Kenora—Rainy River, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thought this was supposed to be the place to speak but I guess the rules have changed.

I believe the committee will hear important testimony from the people. I also feel that the committee must have the ability to change the bill to ensure that it reflects the needs and requests of those who come to speak before it. I want to make sure this is the best piece of legislation possible. I know the committee is up to the challenge.

As the House knows, I come from a constituency of 51 first nation communities. I know that they, along with non-first nation communities in my riding and communities across this country, want to build an economy to improve their quality of life. They want to build a future for their families and they want to do this in partnership with their neighbours.

Many first nation communities, like those I have mentioned in my own riding, are facing the dilemma of how to start down the path to a prosperous future when there is very little about their community over which they have control or responsibility.

While we continue to pursue negotiated self-government agreements with first nations, we cannot wait for these agreements to be reached as the only means of moving forward with practical bread and butter issues facing first nations people in Canada today. We can make progress on both implementing treaty rights and improving day to day quality of life.

The proposed first nations governance act is geared toward removing the impediments to progress that the Indian Act represents, providing first nation communities operating under the act with the tools they need to foster effective, responsible and accountable governance.

As the House may know, all modern self-government agreements include a chapter on governance. By creating a legislative base for first nations under the Indian Act, we hope to build the governance capacity of first nations which will not only serve them in the interim but will reduce negotiation time when those bands choose to move from the Indian Act to self-government. While negotiations for future self-government do take time, we want to build a bridge to that future.

In the past two years we have come a long way to providing the tools to achieve this. If we join the dots we can see the foundations of a more successful self-reliant future for first nations.

As the House will recall, we have increased investments in economic development from $25 million to $125 million. This in turn leveraged over $400 million investments in jobs and businesses for first nations. We have opened the First Nations Land Management Act which empowers first nations to develop their own land use planning codes. It put key tools to attract further investment to the community back into the hands of chiefs and councils.

We recently introduced legislation to speed up specific claims resolution. Again this process will mean that with more certainty over land ownership investors can come to the communities with more confidence, and communities can come to the negotiating table with confidence, confidence that specific claims can be dealt with fairly and quickly.

Moments ago I announced the national working group on first nations education. That working group will bring together studies, recommendations and the experience of first nations people on how to improve education for aboriginal children. By improving education, it will provide a roadmap to a more confident and successful future for young aboriginals. With confidence comes success and with success comes the resources and the capacity to deal with the bread and butter issues.

The government has moved to fight poverty and inequality by investing, by returning power and authority to the communities, and with a hand up, not a handout. That philosophy of a hand up is also what governance is about.

The proposed first nations governance act will lay the foundation for an enhanced relationship between the Government of Canada and first nations, and between first nations and their citizens. These are relationships built on the democratic principles which we as Canadians hold so dearly, relationships built on true respect for the rights and traditions of first nations people.

The bill will not be part of the Indian Act. As I said, it is a break from the colonial approach of the Indian Act. It is stand-alone legislation. At the same time Bill C-61 would see band governments more politically and financially accountable to their own people. The legislation is intended to promote free and open elections to ensure first nations people are able to fully exercise their democratic principles.

Individual band members would have access to information and a direct voice in decision making about their community's development. It would also give them the right to redress for grievances against the band and the section of the Indian Act which stops first nations people from accessing the Canadian Human Rights Commission would be repealed.

The first nations governance act would promote the adoption by communities of codes to deal with elections, financial management and accountability. The codes can be as simple or as complex as they choose so long as they meet local needs.

While the bill would provide clarity, it also offers the necessary flexibility to respond to each community's unique circumstances.

The legislation would also pave the way to create an advisory body to support first nations as they take on added roles to build better communities. The advisory body could assist with developing codes for governance, leadership selection and financial management, as well as providing a process for complaints and appeals.

Most important, the proposed act would give band governments the tools they may require to address socioeconomic challenges and improve living conditions as they work toward self-government.

In drafting this part of the legislation, it was our intention to clearly establish the legal capacity of bands: their capacity to make contracts, to deal with property matters and to raise money to invest, borrow or spend in the best interest of business and their communities.

It is equally an incentive for the private sector to pursue partnerships with first nations. These changes, we believe, would attract economic growth as the business community gains confidence in bands' administrative abilities and capacity to make sound decisions affecting community development.

As I have noted, more than 10,000 first nation people helped to shape the proposed legislation which would provide the missing and necessary tools to achieve self-reliance and economic growth during the transition to self-government.

We want first nations people to see for themselves the intent of the act and how it can help them and their communities. We want them to take a close at what the bill really says as opposed to what it is rumoured to contain.

There are a number of areas, to which I want to refer, to which the standing committee may choose to direct its attention. I think it is important for the committee to explore with first nations people how well we have done in ensuring that the fundamental Canadian values and principles of representative democracy are reflected in the legislation.

These are principles identified in the Penner report, the Royal Commission on Aboriginal People, the AFN-DIAND joint initiative, as well as the Corbiere consultations, and reinforced again during our recent consultations.

For example, for the 261 bands now operating under the elections provisions of the Indian Act, we have attempted to reflect democratic principles, such as the need to hold regular elections by secret ballot, and an arm's length appeal process. We have also tried to incorporate traditional practices and the standards that bands would follow in developing their own codes.

For the 330 bands that select their leadership according to the custom of the band and are not subject to the Indian Act for election purposes, we are proposing another approach based on what we heard in the consultations.

These bands would continue to have the ability to amend their practices and in doing so would not be required to include specific standards such as a regular election by secret ballot. We have suggested that custom first nations should write down their procedures and have them ratified by their full membership or alternatively they would fall under the default electoral provision in the proposed legislation.

The standing committee will play an important role in the next part of this process. Through the committee first nations people and all Canadians will have a forum through which to express their views. I know that the member for Winnipeg Centre, who sits on the Assembly of First Nations steering committee, has followed the legislation with great interest and representatives from both sides of the House have many good ideas to offer.

We on this side of the House, and I hope all parliamentarians, are determined to provide every opportunity for every first nations person to have the opportunity to read the legislation for themselves and tell us what they think before the bill becomes law.

The entire objective of the exercise has been to ensure that together we get it right, that we recognize that economic and social development depends fundamentally on good governance. By demonstrating democracy in action and giving real power to the people I am convinced that first nations look to the 21st century with confidence. For all these reasons I hope my colleagues will agree to refer the bill to committee immediately and let the discussion begin.

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12:25 p.m.


Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I would like to ask for unanimous consent of the House to see if the minister would be willing to take questions from members as is normal with a 20 minute speech and a 10 minute period of questions and comments.