House of Commons Hansard #34 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was budget.


The House resumed from June 1 consideration of the motion.

Opposition Motion—Gasoline PricesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:30 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

Pursuant to order made on Thursday, June 1, 2006, the House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion of the hon. member for Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup relating to the business of supply.

Call in the members.

(The House divided on the motion, which was negatived on the following division:)

Vote #12

Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

6 p.m.


The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I declare the motion lost.

The House resumed from June 5 consideration of the motion that Bill C-9, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (conditional sentence of imprisonment), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

6 p.m.


The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at second reading of Bill C-9.

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Vote #13

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

6:10 p.m.


The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I declare the motion carried.

(Bill read the second time and referred to a committee)

The House resumed from June 5 consideration of the motion.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

6:10 p.m.


The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred record division on the motion to concur in the second report of the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans.

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Vote #14

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

6:20 p.m.


The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I declare the motion carried.

It being 6:23 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

June 6th, 2006 / 6:25 p.m.


Richard Nadeau Bloc Gatineau, QC

moved that Bill C-257, An Act to amend the Canada Labour Code (replacement workers), be now read the second time and referred to a committee.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.


Michel Gauthier Bloc Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order.

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to raise a point of order in this House. I would like to be allowed to proceed calmly, because this is a matter that has very important consequences for the House and the future of our work.

First, I should say that my comments will pertain to the royal recommendation. Recently, and primarily because of the new context we find ourselves in, with a minority government, the issue of the royal recommendation has become much more important.

What we have to understand is that, in the case of a majority government, since the royal recommendation is considered less indispensable, the government can always rescue a private member's bill by a majority vote of its members. But in the case of a minority government, as the two most recent governments have been, the royal recommendation becomes very important.

When a bill is passed and accepted by the House of Commons, it becomes effective, and the government has no choice but to comply with it. If the bill involves additional expenditures of public funds, you will understand, Mr. Speaker, that it could be problematic for the government to allow the House of Commons to commit public funds without executive power. This is a privilege of the executive, the government, not the House of Commons.

However, Bill C-257 introduced by my colleague from Gatineau, which is an anti-scab bill that applies to workers who come under the Canada Labour Code, was initially deemed by the clerk to require a royal recommendation. Mr. Speaker, I know that you intended to review this whole issue in light of the complexity of the implications. You will understand my surprise when I realized that this is the first time in 17 years, during which time 10 such bills have been introduced here in this House, that the anti-scab bill has required a royal recommendation. I therefore checked the record. Mr. Speaker, I looked to your own decisions for material to use in my argument today.

When Bill C-263 was introduced by my former colleague, Roger Clavet, the Speaker said, right here in this House—you were in the chair: “Royal recommendation is particularly important, and as Speaker of the House of Commons, I must say that you have to be extremely careful, and we have to be extremely vigilant, not to commit public moneys under a minority government that could be overturned by a vote in the House of Commons”. Mr. Speaker, you were absolutely right. Except that last year, when Roger Clavet introduced his bill despite that warning—you were well aware of the dangers—you did not ask for royal recommendation for that anti-scab bill, which was exactly the same as the one introduced today.

The clerks told us that two types of expenditures may be considered for royal recommendation. The first is operational expenditures for running departments. The second is statutory expenditures, that is, expenditures automatically incurred upon the implementation of a bill.

Mr. Speaker, according to your clerks, operational expenditures do not require royal recommendation because they are part of the overall cost of running the Government of Canada. Statutory expenditures, on the other hand, require royal recommendation because they are additional expenditures made when the bill is adopted.

In our view, Bill C-257, tabled by my colleague from Gatineau, requires no royal recommendation. No one indicated to my colleague, either at the time his bill was being prepared or at the time it was tabled, that a royal recommendation would be necessary. I understand that he was not told this. Last year, you yourself deemed the bill receivable, and the context was that of a minority government. Nothing has changed in that regard. I therefore assume that everyone believed, at the time of tabling, that no royal recommendation was necessary, and no one required one of my colleague.

Now we are told in mid-course that, as the bill provides for an investigator who may be designated by the Minister of Labour—whom I salute, as he is now present in this chamber—this is a new role, and therefore an expenditure inherent in the bill. So the bill requires a royal recommendation. I point out that the work of a Department of Labour investigator, ordered by the minister, depends on the needs of the situation. Sometimes he works on this, sometimes he investigates that. That is what we call operating expenses, not statutory expenditures.

Since we are passing an antiscab bill, with due respect for the preliminary decision of the clerk, no additional inspector may be hired at the Department of Labour. There are already staff in place to perform this very work, whose job description corresponds in every respect to the investigations that the minister might request. He will not necessarily request them. So this is an expense that is possible, but possible within the operations of the department. Hence there is nothing that requires what we call a royal recommendation.

I checked, and under the Canada Labour Code, labour relations officers have this very mandate. The minister is quite aware of this. He has a certain number of tasks performed by this personnel.

I searched a little further. On March 21, 2005, you yourself rendered a decision in the case of Bill C-331 which provided for negotiations with the Ukrainian community. That bill allocated so-called public money and could have required a spending authority. In your great wisdom, you declared that the bill provided for the conduct of negotiations with the Ukrainian community, and that it could not be established in advance that there would necessarily be costs related to those negotiations. Since a royal recommendation is not necessary for things which may never in fact occur, it was not necessary for section 3 of that bill. It was thus ordered by the great wisdom of the House, your own and that of the clerk, that in the case of a bill which provided for negotiations with the Ukrainian community, it could not be predicted that there would inevitably be costs. Furthermore since the costs generated would not be immediate, they would be operating costs, costs which—according to the clerks—never require royal recommendation. So this is a good decision you made. You have made others that were just as good, about which I would like to speak to you.

On October 29, 2003, in your great wisdom, when examining a bill on restoring the lighthouses of the St. Lawrence, you recognized that:

—when heritage lighthouses are designated, there may be an expenditure of public funds. However, I would characterize those expenditures as falling within departmental operational costs, for which an appropriation would have been obtained in the usual manner. From year to year, such expenditures would vary depending on the condition and number of heritage lighthouse structures and on the effects of weather. Such operational expenditures are covered through the annual appropriation act that Parliament considers and approves.

You spoke wisely when you stated:

Therefore, after listening to the submissions of hon. members and after reviewing my previous ruling and the provisions of this bill, I would conclude that Bill S-14 does not require a royal recommendation.

In your wisdom you recognized that, for this bill, royal recommendation was not required since it involved an operational cost and not a statutory expenditure arising from the bill.

You recognized, for Bill S-14 and a number of bills, that a royal recommendation was not required when the expenditure arising from adoption of the bill was not immediate.

For 17 years, you and your predecessors recognized that the anti-scab bill did not require royal recommendation. Last year, despite your vigilance and warning to the House of Commons, you did not request a royal recommendation for the same bill.

It would not make sense that suddenly, this year, parliamentary law, tradition and rulings no longer apply and that everything has changed.

I have the utmost respect for the role played by the office of the Clerk of the House of Commons. It is to advise and support members, to ensure that they are able to enforce the rules calmly and fairly, and, in the context in which they work, present parliamentary initiatives that will serve their fellow citizens, as my colleague from Gatineau has done.

I know that this idea would not occur to you, but at no time is it the role of the Speaker or the Clerk of the House of Commons to protect the government. You are above the political fray, as we know. You are here to ensure that the rights of all members, including independent members, are respected, and to ensure that we are able to represent our fellow citizens in an atmosphere of complete serenity, comfort and security.

I do not think—based on earlier rulings and the 10 bills tabled that never, after being assessed, needed a royal recommendation, and based on the role of an inspector—that it can be said, today, that this calls for a royal recommendation, when the inspectors exist and are already doing this work, and there is nothing to say that any more inspectors will be needed after this. Nor is there anything to say that the Minister of Labour will be having to order investigation after investigation to enforce an antiscab law.

Based on all these considerations, and relying on your earlier rulings, on the wisdom of the House of Commons, on our desire that our rules be followed and, most importantly, on the fact it is not the job of anyone here, other than the government itself, to protect minority governments—any more than it is the job of the Speaker to support the opposition, other than to ensure that it is able to use the rules properly and do its job—I am certain that in a few days you will deliver a ruling on the antiscab bill. As was the case on 10 occasions in the last 17 years, you will find that this bill does not call for a royal recommendation, that it can be voted on in the House of Commons and come into force to provide the best protection for working men and women covered by the Canada Labour Code, as is the case in Quebec for workers protected by the province’s labour code.

I am certain that the Minister of Labour, who comes from Quebec, is familiar with Quebec's legislation and is not unaware of what is happening there in terms of labour relations, and that you yourself, all of Parliament, our colleagues in the Liberal opposition—who in fact gave us fairly broad support in our first attempt, as our friends in the NDP will certainly do— we will together vote to enact an antiscab bill, legislation that you will allow us to vote on and bring into force because we are in compliance with all of your earlier rulings.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

6:40 p.m.


Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on the same point of order. I realize that you have heard from the House leader of the Bloc Québécois, but it is an important point of order so I would also like to make a brief comment. I will try to keep my comments as brief as possible because I know that members actually want to get into the substance of the debate about this very important bill.

I want to say that the ruling made about the royal recommendation certainly affects this bill, Bill C-257, but it also will affect the NDP bill being put forward by the member for Vancouver Island North, Bill C-295, which is similar in nature, dealing as it does with anti-scab legislation. It would also, according to your ruling, Mr. Speaker, require a royal recommendation.

The ruling that was made is in effect being challenged because these two bills are based, as we have heard, on an earlier bill, Bill C-263 from the Bloc, that did not have this issue or this contradiction of the royal recommendation. We did not hear anything from the Table previously. It was not in question. I think this raises some questions and concerns for us about how the bill previously was not considered to be a problem in terms of a royal recommendation and yet this bill and the NDP bill will now have problems in terms of needing one.

In fact, I would point out that subclauses 2(2.5) through to 2(2.9) in Bill C-257 and Bill C-295 are exactly the same as the previous bill in the former Parliament, Bill C-263, which was debated and voted on without any mention of the royal recommendation. We believe that there is no need for any part of these bills to have a royal recommendation and we believe that the Table and the Speaker got it right in the 38th Parliament.

I would go on to add that even if the first ruling was wrong and this one was right, there is the additional issue that under the labour department, HRSD Canada employs personnel. They are funded from their existing budgets as authorized by the House to monitor compliance and initiate prosecutions when there are serious contraventions of the Canada Labour Code.

I fail to see why those people would not be able to do the work which we are referring to in subclauses 2(2.5) to 2(2.9) of the bill before us today. Really, it is a question of logic. Surely someone who monitors compliance and initiates prosecutions for contraventions of the Canada Labour Code is also able to ascertain if there is compliance to a ban on the use of scabs in a legal strike that extends from a collective bargaining situation.

We fail to see the difference in terms of work which would currently happen under the Labour Code and for which there is authority from the minister, the department and budgetary expenditures. Why would it be any different for the provisions of this bill? Both would involve the same skills and the same basic law.

We believe that the House can decide on the question of a ban on scabs without having to get into the question of how a minister or deputy minister manages their staff. The resources to do a job are already there. Therefore, we believe that Parliament does not need to re-authorize the expenditure even if there is some change in the scope of the duties.

For that reason alone, I would suggest that a royal recommendation is not required for any of the provisions of Bill C-257 or Bill C-295, which will also be debated in the House. I would hope that the Speaker and the Table would agree to stick by their earlier understanding of the former bill, which was not a problem and was not challenged. We are very concerned about this, Mr. Speaker, and we would ask you to consider it.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

6:45 p.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre Saskatchewan


Tom Lukiwski ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, let me first say that I think economy of speech is a condition which has never affected my two hon. colleagues.

Let me say that the hon. member for Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean has raised a number of interesting precedents for the Chair to consider.

Mr. Speaker, the government is content to leave the matter in your capable hands for a final decision.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

6:45 p.m.


The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I thank the hon. member for Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean, the hon. member for Vancouver East and the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons for their submissions on this matter.

The Chair will certainly take into account every point made. I have to say that the ruling I made a few days ago concerning bills possibly requiring a royal recommendation was solely intended to express the Chair's concern about such bills. The purpose of that ruling was not to insist that a royal recommendation actually be requested.

I greatly appreciate the points that have been made on this matter by the hon. members. I will take them into consideration and come back to the House with a ruling.

I must also add that, normally, rulings on such matters are not made following the third reading of this kind of bill. As everyone here knows by now, bills may be considered up to the end of report stage and be voted on at each of the stages up to that point. It is only at third reading of a bill for which a royal recommendation was not obtained that a vote may not be taken in the House.

Given the current situation, the Chair will be making a ruling on this bill, probably before the beginning of third reading, which will likely take place within a few months.

We may now resume debate. The hon. member for Gatineau.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

6:45 p.m.


Richard Nadeau Bloc Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very honoured to again present Bill C-257, an act to amend the Canada Labour Code (replacement workers).

The Bloc Québécois has made it a duty to present this anti-scab legislation for the tenth time. There should no longer be two categories of workers in Quebec, namely, those governed by the Canada Labour Code, which allows the use of scabs, and those governed by the Quebec Labour Code, which does not.

Before addressing the fundamental issue, I would be remiss if I did not mention the tremendous efforts of my colleague from Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, who has been rigorously and admirably defending the rights of workers ever since her arrival in the House of Commons in June 2004. I would also like to thank the unions of the Outaouais, especially Dino Lemay and Donald Roy of the Fédération des travailleurs du Québec, or FTQ, Michel Quijada, of the Confédération des syndicats nationaux, or CSN, and Daniel Charron, of the Conseil régional d'action politique de l'Outaouais of the Public Service Alliance of Canada, for their support in this endeavour. I would also like to thank Hassan Yussuf of the Canadian Labour Congress, or CLC, in connection with the tabling of Bill C-257 at first reading on May 4, 2006.

This bill is designed to put an end to the inequity between workers governed by the Quebec Labour Code and those governed by the Canada Labour Code. Only Quebec and British Columbia have legislation prohibiting the use of scabs. Four provinces, including Ontario, however, already have anti-scab provisions in their labour codes.

Let us recall that Mike Harris’s Conservative Ontario government, three of whose ministers may be found in today’s federal cabinet, shamefully legalized the use of scabs again.

In Quebec, the adoption of an anti-scab law goes back to December 1977, under René Lévesque’s Parti Québécois government. Getting his government to adopt this anti-scab legislation guaranteeing respect for workers was an impressive leap forward.

Coming at the end of a particularly tumultuous strike at the United Aircraft factory in Longueuil, this legislation, by seriously hindering employers who could not care less about their unionized employees, placed Quebec in the North American vanguard in this area.

Anti-scab legislation will be good for all workers, both in Quebec and elsewhere in the provinces and territories.

In New Brunswick, union leaders have already been asking for some time for anti-scab provisions in their labour code. Likewise in Manitoba and Saskatchewan, where the unions are trying to convince their New Democratic governments to adopt such measures.

In federal legislation, section 94(2.1) of the Canada Labour Code contains a prohibition respecting replacement workers, but only if an employer uses them with a view to undermining the union’s representational capacity.

This prohibition is very weak, because an employer simply has to go on recognizing the union in place and go on negotiating to avoid undermining the union’s representational capacity and it is entitled to use replacement workers.

In other words, if an employer refuses to negotiate while using replacement workers, the Canada Industrial Relations Board can prohibit their use. But all an employer has to do is negotiate or appear to be negotiating with the union to avoid this prohibition and go on using scabs. So we can see that this is a ridiculous provision and provides a loophole allowing the use of scabs.

The prohibition respecting the hiring of replacement workers during a labour dispute is therefore more necessary than ever.

This is why: to diminish picket-line violence, foster a fair balance in the negotiations between employers and employees, reduce the legal proceedings that arise during strikes and lockouts, and mitigate the bitterness felt by employees when they return to work. There is also a very broad consensus among different unions about the importance of antiscab legislation. It is essential in the current workplace because it provides greater transparency in case of labour disputes. This bill will not entail any expenditures for the government.

With this in mind, the current situation under the Canada Labour Code—allowing the use of replacement workers—means that there are very negative consequences during strikes and lockouts. There are a lot of negative effects, and they alone demonstrate how important it is to bring forward dispute-reduction measures. The premise is that labour disputes last longer when scabs are used. This causes a reduction in the purchasing power of workers directly or indirectly involved in the dispute and results in households going into debt. In some cases, disputes can cause social problems, sometimes very violent, as well as stress-related psychological problems.

To provide a few examples of the benefits of the Quebec legislation, here are figures showing how antiscab legislation could have positive effects on the work climate and the negotiating climate between employers and employees.

In 1976 before antiscab legislation was passed in Quebec, the average number of working days lost was 39.4. In 1979, after the act was passed, the average was 32.8 days, and in 2001 it was 27.4 days. This clearly shows that dispute settlements are quicker and fairer when employers and unions negotiate under the same constraints. The proof is there.

Unfortunately, the Canada Labour Code still allows the use of scabs in Quebec, with the result that there have been labour disputes that demonstrate how urgent it is to pass this bill. Take the case of Vidéotron.

After getting the approval of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission in May 2001, Quebecor acquired the cable operator Vidéotron with the help of the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec. In order to clear up some financial problems related to the acquisition, Quebecor undertook a downsizing process shortly thereafter that was supposed to produce annual savings of $35 to $40 million in its cable subsidiary.

Some people thought that the confrontation between Quebecor and the 2,200 employees and technicians of the cable company was the last great step in this grand rationalization process.

The 2,200 Vidéotron employees were on strike and locked out from May 8, 2002 until March 2003. The use of replacement workers resulted in many acts of vandalism against Vidéotron facilities.

The same thing happened at Sécur. After 99% of the workers voted against the employer's offers, 900 employees went on strike on July 5, 2002.

When the strike was called, Sécur held 75% of the valuables transport market in Quebec with an annual turnover of $55 million. For instance, it delivered cash to 1,200 of the 6,000 ATMs in Quebec, a job which was taken over by replacement workers.

The situation deteriorated in late August. Striking Sécur employees vandalized ATMs by spraying them with urethane foam. The dispute ended on October 9, 2002, but not without leaving a very bitter taste in the mouths of everyone concerned.

The long labour disputes at Vidéotron and Sécur had several points in common.

These were lengthy disputes in sectors governed by the Canada Labour Code, where the use of scabs is permitted. The work stoppages at Vidéotron and Sécur were marked by acts of violence and vandalism.

The use of violence and vandalism will never be justified and labour representatives should condemn these acts. Nonetheless, the sense of powerlessness and not seeing an end in sight to the strike or lockout pushes some people to commit serious and illegal acts. This resulted in cables being severed at Vidéotron and ATMs being plugged up with urethane foam at Sécur.

The writing is on the wall. The current Canada Labour Code does not contain the conditions required to allow a true climate of equal negotiations between the employer and the union.

The Bloc Québécois has always been first to defend the workers of Quebec and the rest of Canada. We have tabled a similar bill nine times in order to end the inequity. During the last Parliament, the bill was defeated by only 12 votes at second reading.

Today, anything is possible. During the last election campaign, the Bloc Québécois told its constituents that it was working to improve their living conditions and their quality of life. This was one of my strongest commitments. I call on all hon. members to support this bill in order to make it a priority to improve the living conditions of workers everywhere.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

7 p.m.


Catherine Bell NDP Vancouver Island North, BC

Mr. Speaker, I also thank the Bloc for bringing forward amendments to the Canada Labour Code to ban the use of replacement workers. The bill has a lot of support in the NDP caucus. In fact, we put forward a similar motion and we hope we can have some discussion on how we can amend the bill to make it even stronger.

I am from British Columbia and the member mentioned in his remarks that British Columbia is one of the provinces that has anti-scab legislation. He probably knows that in 2001 the provincial government opened up the labour code, a labour code that was put in place by labour, business and a then NDP government in pre-2001, that had many good articles for workers.

When the government opened up that bill, it changed a lot of things but it did not change the anti-scab portion of the labour code because it works. We know the use of strikebreakers prolongs labour disputes. We saw that with the recent TELUS dispute. Using strikebreakers also poisons the work atmosphere and it takes many years to get over that. When workers are pitted against one another it puts a strain on the workplace and can cost a lot of money.

I live in a place where the use of strikebreakers has poisoned family relations over a long period of years. Some family members have not spoken to each other for decades because of strikes and the use of some family members as scabs in the mines of Cumberland. If this bill were in place it would eliminate that sort of thing.

This anti-scab bill would be good for workers, good for business and good for the economy. Perhaps the member could expand a little more on the economic benefits derived from the ban on scabs.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

7 p.m.


Richard Nadeau Bloc Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, one thing is certain: the simple fact that disputes do not last as long enables employers and employees to reach solutions more quickly.

There is also the issue of security, among others. When the parties negotiate as equals, the workers know that they are on strike and do not have any income. The same holds true for management, for the employers. At that point, the two parties are on an equal footing and the negotiations are transparent.

This also avoids legal action. If the parties are in a position where there is less violence or no violence, where violence is avoided simply because the parties negotiate honestly, then they work to find a solution that suits both sides.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

7 p.m.


Luc Harvey Conservative Louis-Hébert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have several questions for my Bloc Québécois colleague. First, he referred to a number of people who were apparently involved in drafting this bill. He spoke only of union representatives. Were people other than union representatives also involved? Did people from the management side have an opportunity to suggest approaches, developments or ways to proceed?

Second, he says that statistics show that disputes do not last as long when there are anti-scab laws. Yet according to the large amount of information I have here, a strike lasts an average of 32 days longer and the risk of a strike is 12% higher as in the case of Nikitin & Baud. I have a lot of other information that does not necessarily corroborate his data. We are talking about people who are very well known in industrial relations, labour relations and union-management relations. Was this information also taken into account when the bill was drafted?

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

7:05 p.m.


Richard Nadeau Bloc Gatineau, QC

I thank my hon. colleague, Mr. Speaker. First, in Quebec in 1967, the employers' council never stood in the way of the bill that was passed. One thing is for sure: both on the management side and on the labour side in Quebec, people agree that, ever since the Quebec Labour Code has been in force, there is much greater social peace during labour disputes and strikes than there was before this legislation was passed to ban replacement workers.

One has to try to imagine the scene whenever replacement workers cross picket lines. Simply evoking this is already enough to give rise to feelings of unacceptable conflict. In a civilized society, people who have a dispute to settle have to settle it in the best conditions and with transparency. Both parties must be able to negotiate equitably, using the same set of rules. Then, and only then, the striker does not make any money, but neither does the employer. That way, they can come to an agreement much more quickly than when the workers see replacement workers cross their picket lines, ensuring that the employer continues to make money.

That is the kind of situation we want to prevent. We want to create a climate of social peace. In Quebec, the employers' council never questioned Quebec's anti-scab legislation. This was one good thing that was done in Quebec in terms of social peace.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

7:05 p.m.

Jonquière—Alma Québec


Jean-Pierre Blackburn ConservativeMinister of Labour and Minister of the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec

Mr. Speaker, first of all I would like to thank the hon. member for Gatineau and the hon. member for Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert for their commitment in this discussion and in the matter of the antiscab legislation.

This is my first opportunity as Minister of Labour and Minister of the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec to speak on a private member’s bill concerning the department I represent, namely the antiscab legislation we are discussing this evening.

So I am pleased today to have this opportunity to participate in the debate on this important labour policy issue.

Anyone familiar with labour relations in Canada knows how devastating a labour dispute can be, both for the employer and employees and for their families.

It is in that context that we must examine this issue as a whole. Is it better, in fact, to have anti-scab legislation in Canada, or not?

We have to look at things from the national perspective. I remind my colleagues that such a law has existed in Quebec since 1977, and also in British Columbia since 1993. In 29 years, however, only two provinces in Canada have seen fit to bring in antiscab legislation—only two provinces in 29 years.

There is a reason for that. Provinces have considered this unhealthy; they have felt that introducing such a legislation did not create balance in the workplace. Lengthy strikes and lockouts can damage—

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

7:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

7:05 p.m.


Jean-Pierre Blackburn Conservative Jonquière—Alma, QC

Mr. Speaker, if I may, I would like to be able to make my presentation without hearing all sorts of comments. I respected the hon. members earlier, and I would also like to be able to provide explanations to those listening to us on television. This debate is important, and it is important that people be familiar with the issues.

So, lengthy strikes and lockouts can do enormous damage to Canadian workers, their families and communities. When they happen, the economy of the country suffers.

Hardworking Canadians want a context in which the rules are fair when a dispute arises with their employer. That is why we have to find the balance—I return to this idea of balance between the rights and responsibilities of employers, unions and employees.

Part I of the Canada Labour Code offers a solid system of checks and balances which permits all the parties to resolve their disputes in the context they require. It deals with this matter of antiscab legislation. The Labour Code has three parts, with Part II devoted to occupational health and safety and Part III to labour standards.

Banning the use of replacement workers would make the rules of the game unequal.

Bill C-257 would amend the Canada Labour Code by prohibiting all use of replacement workers anywhere in Canada. Prohibiting their use is not the solution.

I have at hand examples of places in Canada where there is antiscab legislation and where disputes have gone on a very long time. I give you the example of the Syndicat des travailleurs de Mine Noranda and the Noranda-Horne smelter, where 500 employees went on strike in June 2002 and stayed on strike for 11 months, despite the antiscab legislation.

The strike at the Société des alcools du Québec, affecting 3,800 employees, began in November 2004 and lasted three months, despite said legislation.

More recently, the strike involving the workers at Laurenco, Moulins Maple Leaf Ltée and the Syndicat des Métallos has gone on for over a year, since March 2, 2005, despite said legislation.

The lockout involving the Lallemand employees and the CSN, which began three months ago, is also still going on.

So I repeat that Bill C-257, which would prevent the use of replacement workers, is not the solution since it would upset the balance.

Moreover, I would like to dispel today the myth that the use of replacement workers prolongs labour disputes. In fact, a recent independent study refuted the idea that the use of replacement workers prolongs disputes or creates violence on the picket lines. The study clearly shows that the fact of prohibiting the use of replacement workers leads to longer labour disputes that are increasingly destabilizing.

These observations discredit the theory that the use of replacement workers gives rise to more frequent and longer strikes in Canada. The opposite is true. Recent studies show that, where there is anti-scab legislation, disputes last 32 days longer than where there is no such legislation.

As the members know, labour legislation in Canada was amended not too long ago. The Canada Labour Code was amended in 1999, just seven years ago, in order to modernize our legislation and improve collective bargaining. Every day we can see the advantages of the amendments and improvements made. Furthermore, these amendments were the result of lengthy consultations among stakeholders in the labour world. The exercise included a study conducted by Andy Sims, a former labour board chair.

The question of replacement workers was studied at length and with care at the time of the consultations and the debate in the House of Commons. During the consultations, the workers’ and employers’ representatives were able to reach agreement on a number of reforms when the legislation was amended. Still, it quickly became clear that there were two opposing camps on the issue of replacement workers. The members of the Sims task force were also unsuccessful in reaching a consensus on this thorny issue.

The current provisions respecting replacement workers in part I of the Labour Code in a way implement the recommendations that were supported by the majority of the members of the Sims task force. These provisions prohibit the use of replacement workers during a legal work stoppage if such use undermines the union’s ability to represent its members. This is regarded as an unfair labour practice. When a representative, employee or member of the union finds that replacement workers were used to undermine their representational capacity, they can file a complaint with the Canada Industrial Relations Board. Then the complaint is analysed immediately by the CIRB.

The current provision is relatively new—it is only seven years old. We are still monitoring its effectiveness. That said, I can assure you that parties undertaking collective bargaining in Canada under part I of the Canada Labour Code have accepted this approach as a reasonable compromise.

We must consider another important principle. Let us go back to the negotiations I mentioned earlier. Some say that the employer's right to lock out employees offsets the union's right to strike, but that is not the case. The employer's right to continue operating during a strike corresponds to the employees' right not to go to work. The current provision in the code aims to balance the interests of both parties.

With respect to strikes, about 97% of all collective agreements under federal jurisdiction renewed in 2005-06 were signed without a work stoppage. This is a clear indicator of the health of our economy and the effectiveness of the code.

In closing, I would like to remind the members that since this legislative provision was adopted by this House in 1999, 18 grievances have been submitted to the Canada Industrial Relations Board. Thirteen were withdrawn, three were rejected, and two are still being examined. This sounds like balance to me.

Although unions are exerting a lot of pressure, I do not think we should respond immediately. We have to consider both sides. That is what happens now under the act adopted in 1999, which creates the best balance between workers, employers and employees.